Economic systems are always changing, but the last few decades have seen change come at a speed and with societal disruptions that arguably have never been seen before. Since the invention of the Internet, widespread adaptation of computer technology, and robotic automation, many jobs have disappeared from the economy, and are likely to never return.
Many displaced workers (and individuals who are new to the workforce) are having a difficult time in finding jobs. Increasing productivity trends may indicate that at some point in the near future there simply won’t be enough jobs for everyone. Because of these trends, some leading technologies consider Universal Basic Income to be a solution, and in fact an inevitability.
Universal Basic Income. While it’s not a widely known concept, the notion of a “Universal Basic Income” is gaining popularity among some leading technology industry leaders.
Unconditional Basic Income (sometimes also known as “basic income,” “basic income guarantee,” or “citizen’s income”) is a form of public welfare or social security under which the government (or another public institution) pays each citizen a fixed sum of money on a periodic basis. The amount of such Unconditional Basic Income can vary, but it’s generally at or right above the poverty level for that country, or at some other minimum objective level.
The purpose of Universal Basic Income is to ensure that every citizen has the resources to maintain a bare minimum standard of living.
The Counter-Argument. Some economic experts have observed that despite the recent gains in productivity due to automation and the other factors we’ve discussed above, the rate of productivity increases is in fact not increasing as quickly as it once was. This may reduce or eliminate the need for this type of benefit.
Political Justifications. Surprisingly, there are justifications for Universal Basic Income on the more conservative side of the political spectrum. Because Universal Basic Income programs are incredibly easy to administer, and are much more efficient than traditional forms of welfare and public benefits programs, they can actually save money. By implementing a Universal Basic Income program, all of those other inefficient, overlapping and expensive programs (as well as the bureaucracies that exist to administer them) would be eliminated.
Furthermore, this type of program is preferable to traditional welfare and public benefits programs, under which reduce the amount benefits a person receives the more they work. Universal Basic Income benefits are not reduced, even as the recipient chooses to work more.
Likely Not an “All or Nothing” Scenario. Those who believe that a Universal Basic Income scenario will never come to pass sometimes reduce the situation to one in which there are no paying jobs for anyone, and one in which automated manufacturing and services constitute all or nearly all of the productivity in the economy. In truth, the situation is likely to involve a slow decline of jobs numbers over time, which may make it difficult to decide whether Universal Basic Income is the answer.