Are We Headed Towards a Universal Income?

I came across an excellent piece in the Diplomatic Courier, a publication that says it is “the global affairs media network that connects global publics to leaders in international affairs, diplomacy, social good, and more.” The article is The Graveyard of Employment and the Future of Jobs written by Bailey Piazza. I would highly recommend reading the entire piece as I am not going to mention everything.

Universal Guaranteed Income

Ms. Piazza writes that there are two common scenarios envisioned for the future of work. The first is the optimistic one where everyone who is displaced by a robot in the future will find a new job, most likely in a profession that does not exist yet. I personally feel there is a big grain of truth in this scenario. Her other scenario is the dystopian view, where people will be displaced by technology and will be unable to find jobs.

The future will most likely have goods and services being produced by robots, making the process more efficient and cheaper to produce — hopefully also making them cheaper to purchase. For people working in the optimistic scenario, this means that may not have to work as much or as hard because it will be cheaper to live. But people in the dystopian scenario won’t be working at all and because of this, even though goods will be cheaper they will not be able to afford them. Ms. Piazza writes:

“A society without work (and thus an earned income) will continue to drive down the median income, as it has been for the past 16 years by approximately three percent. This causes the socioeconomic gap to increase and inequality and polarization in the world’s societies to skyrocket.”

Governments React

Ms. Piazza says that some modern governments are already reacting to this dystopian scenario because they have already seen a gap in society caused by technology and other sociological changes. In Germany and Sweden there is already a universal/guaranteed national incomes (GNI), which is an unconditional, regularly given lump sum of income to subsidize the existing capital flow of the individual. Piazza argues that this system is better than welfare and may actually require that the individuals receiving the income acquire skills. Piazza says:

“It is argued that under the guaranteed income system, the future economy can survive and technology will maintain its flourishing. People will continue to enjoy plentiful resources to buy and enjoy the constant creation of new technology, thus closing class gaps altogether.”

Many Governments are Resistant

Piazza says that many governments are resistant to the idea of this “socialism.” Certainly the United States will be one of the greatest resistors to this plan. It is already criticized for things like the lack of a national policy and support for paid maternity like many countries offer.

If indeed the dystopian scenario of massive loss of jobs with little or no replacement occurs, will governments be forced to provide for those losses? What do you think?

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Mike Haberman

Mike Haberman

Michael (Mike) D. Haberman, SPHR is a consultant, speaker, writer of HR Observations, and co-founder of Omega HR Solutions, Inc. After over 30 years in HR he got tired of the past and focuses here on the Future of HR. Connect with Mike.