As the world continues to change there are many big ideas floating around within the political scene. When talking about economics, one big buzzword has been continuously popping up in both far left and right media outlets – universal basic income. In the simplest sense, universal basic income is when a government gives a set sum per month to citizens in hopes they will be able to sustain themselves healthily and gain initiative to work.
Universal basic income has had trails in Finland, Canada, Kenya, India, and France (among others) recently, which has turned it into a media hot-topic. There are many strong arguments for and against providing a sustainable income for a nation’s poorest. Some of the arguments for providing a basic income revolve around creating a safety-net for those who lost their jobs due to automation because of progression. The basic income would allow people to try to pursue other careers and interests without risking their own wellbeing. Another major reason people advocate for basic income is how it reduces bureaucracy in the welfare system, as basic income would allow recipients of welfare to help create their own opportunities instead of trying to force those in need of a job into a job they may not want. The most compelling argument for universal basic income is that it will give those below the poverty line a sense of income security, something that many people believe should be a necessity in order to live.
Though there are many positive repercussions to universal basic income, many people believe that the idea of handing free money to people will do the opposite to what was intended, and reduce productivity. Universal basic income is also extremely expensive. It is estimated that if the United States handed out $10,000 yearly of basic income to all its citizens, it would cost them 3.2 trillion dollars. When excluding children, wealthier households, and those receiving social security, it would cost the government 1.5 trillion dollars. The price it would take for introducing basic income will end up overall raising taxes to pay for the sum, which may end up bringing other negative repercussions to the economic system of the country at hand. People who are against basic income also argue that there is no clear transition period in place when it comes to providing the money, which ends up abruptly destroying the current welfare system in favour of a new one. People also fear that universal basic income would begin to take away from already established welfare programs that have been proven to improve the lives of many individuals.
Though there are many conflicting opinions regarding the topic of universal basic income, one fact remains: there needs to be a way to combat increasing automation that takes labour jobs within society. There should be a way to ensure there is a safety-net for working-class people who may not have the opportunity to go to university or college in order to get a higher paying job. Universal basic income is just one attempt at a solution to a problem that has continuously been having a large impact on Western Society. It is hoped that through many more trials as well as slight modifications to the basic income model, that hopefully a variation of the basic income idea will be placed in many countries that have growing working-class job insecurity. Regardless of whether it is implemented in the near future, or not at all, universal basic income reminds society that creating economic systems that are adaptable to new technologies and trends are essential for moving forward efficiently as a society. Whether universal basic income will help achieve this is or not is not known, but it certainly can be a step in the right direction.