Just a few years ago, Universal Basic Income was a taboo word in the economic circles. No country or big enterprise would dare to pronounce those words in public as they feared the spread of the “free-money” idea. Nowadays, it seems the only solution in the near future to prevent (most likely) job losses from the rising of machines in the labour sector.
Automation and new AI development are taking over the production in factories, the management of companies, through high-end software and even the customer service in the retail sector. According to some experts, new automation and AI are putting at risks the jobs of the future.
Besides, there is something happening that wouldn’t be tolerated by future generations. Thanks to robotics and new AI, the production will be massive, creating extreme wealth in those ‘upgraded’ countries. It would be hard to explain, then, why all the extra profit is not going back to the job-less citizens.
Redistribution of the extra wealth through Cash Handouts
It is at that point when Universal Basic Income becomes ‘something to look at’. If a country’s GDP is growing, big companies are making tons of money at job’s cost. Some of that extra wealth should be revenue in the citizen’s pokets. Better if it is by cash.
This idea is even shared by billionaires magnates as Richard Branson. Speaking with Business Insider Nordic while in Helsinki for the Nordic Business Forum recently, he agreed that “basic income is going to be all the more important. If a lot more wealth is created by AI, the least that a country should be able to do is that a lot of that wealth that is created by AI goes back into making sure that everybody has a safety net.”
The accelerating speed of automation will put people out of work faster than they can be retrained, and therefore governments will need to pay people to live.
Finland is experimenting with universal basic income and a privately funded study of the effects of cash handouts is getting off the ground in the United States too. The important data behind those experiments is about how people will use all the free time they will enjoy without the need for job seeking.
Indeed, first conclusions out of the Finland’s experiment go towards the right direction. As it was thought in first place, people, with their basic needs covered, can decide better about what they want to do and how to accomplish it. The basic income allows them more time to be creative and entrepreneurial.
On the other hand, there are other voices criticising the effects of the Universal Basic Income. That is the case of Experts working for University College London’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP).
Universal Basic Services, the real alternative
For them, UBI shouldn’t be the answer to the probable scenario of lack of jobs in the near future. They came up with an idea already implemented in Europe in a much lower grade. They say that the universal ethos of the NHS should be expanded to cover other areas of life to mitigate the disruption caused by technological change. That means an almost complete coverage of living needs. In the specific case of the Britain, UK citizens should receive free housing, food, transport and internet access to counter a “rise of the robots” that threatens to eradicate millions of jobs. They call it Universal Basic Services instead. They describe their proposal in an article in the Independent.
The radical proposal includes building 1.5 million new social homes to provide rent-free accommodation to those in most need and supplying one third of all meals for the estimated 2.2 million households who struggle to experience food insecurity each year.
Furthermore, The Freedom Pass, which allows disabled people and those aged over 60 to travel locally for free, would be expanded to everyone. Basic internet and telephone access would also be paid for by the state, allowing everyone, including those on low or no incomes, to access work opportunities, “as well as participate in our democracy as informed citizens”, the IGP said.
For the IGP, “instead of attempting to alleviate poverty through redistributive payments and minimum wages, the state should instead provide everyone with the services they need to feel secure in society.”
Hernaldo Turrillo is a freelance journalist working now for IntelligentHQ. Hernaldo was born in Spain and finally settled in London, United Kingdom, after a few years of personal growth. Hernaldo finished his Journalism bachelor degree in the University of Seville, Spain, and began working as reporter in the newspaper, Europa Sur, writing about Politics and Society. He also worked as community manager and marketing advisor in Los Barrios, Spain. Innovation, technology, politics and economy are his main interests, with special focus on new trends and ethical projects. He enjoys finding himself getting lost in words, explaining what he understands from the world and helping others. He was born journalist and became a thinker. Knowledge has no limits.