What is Universal Basic Income
And is it Worth Considering in 2021?
Universal basic income is a simple idea that could drastically change the way we think about social support. UBI would provide every citizen with a set amount of money each month, independent of their work status.
This would replace more complex welfare structures that many governments are currently struggling to manage.
The logic behind UBI is simple: by providing an unconditional sum of cash to each citizen, those who are unable to work due to health problems or disability, for example, would no longer face material hardship and could continue to live as they do today.
Those who want to work but cannot find a job would have the freedom to look for a job in different fields or start their own business without running the risk of falling into poverty. And all citizens could use the extra cash on whatever they want — leisure activities, education, starting a business — without having to worry about how it’s going to affect their monthly budget.
The concept also has its share of critics
Some believe it may be unfair on those who do choose to work but earn low wages; others say that providing unconditional support encourages people not to work and lose all motivation; some argue that it does little if anything at all for people in poverty if they are not working; and others suggest that it will cost too much money that could be spent elsewhere.
But these arguments can be countered by statistics from countries like Finland where UBI has been tested on a small scale: participation in the labour market did not decrease significantly while unemployment rates decreased by 8% (by comparison unemployment rates in Finland were 8% before the experiment). And there was no noticeable effect on economic growth either — more people were working and tax revenues actually increased! So there is certainly room for experimentation in this particular area!
The debate on UBI is far from being settled but it is one of the most interesting topics in the social sciences today.
As a concept, it has radical implications for our understanding of society and welfare provision. And it could have an even bigger impact in the future. As AI and other technologies push more and more people out of work, a growing number of experts believe that UBI will become a necessity rather than a choice.
And as technology advances we will see more and more areas where humans are no longer needed to do a job — from AI algorithms building cars to robots mining for raw materials.
The question then is: what kind of society do we want to live in? Will we want a world where only very few (the ultra-rich) own all resources — natural, physical, intellectual? Or will we move towards a world where every person has access to basic human needs like food, shelter and health care?
At the moment it’s difficult to predict exactly how UBI could be implemented but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t start thinking about it now!
One thing is sure though: as new technologies dramatically change our world over the coming years, universal basic income is going to be more relevant than ever before!
What I think about UBI in 2021
Considering the potential of new technologies like AI and blockchain, UBI will be a must, not a choice. And it will be implemented gradually, starting with the most vulnerable groups in society.
The rise of Artificial Intelligence and other advanced technologies will change the way we work and live in the next decade, for better and worse. The way we think about work, value creation and social security will have to change as well to cope with new realities.
And the debate on UBI is just one aspect of the bigger problem of how to organize our societies in a way that will be sustainable and fair for everyone.
We need to consider the social, economic and political implications of these technologies and how they will change society.
Policy makers need to start thinking about how to apply the lessons learned from history (and current trends) when designing new support structures.
And we as individuals need to start asking ourselves what we really want from a society that will be transformed by technology in the next few decades.
In my opinion, UBI is an area worth exploring because it gives us the freedom to decide what we really want from our societies. And I hope that in 2021 we’ll have made progress towards a more sustainable and fairer future for all of us!
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.