What will the reality be if 50% of the word population is unemployed but are still earning a salary?
The issue of a basis income for people that became obsolete in the workforce is increasingly discussed by labour market specialists.
The Artificial intelligence (AI) revolution will have a profound effect on our lives within the next three to five years, and it will totally change the labour market as we know it within 25 years.
Moshe Vardi a professor in computer technology recently told the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) that he predicts that robots will take over half of the jobs in the future.
According to Bart Selman, professor of computer science at Cornell University, the developments of the last five years will have the effect that robots will now for the first time become part of everyday life. Computers will have the ability to see and hear as humans do and to synthesise data and implement strategies for achieving their goals.
Vardi expects that the growing presence of intelligent machines in the workforce will contribute to a phenomenon called “job polarisation”. Job polarisation will take place in the labour market where robots cannot replace the low-level workforce because it is going to be too expensive and cannot replace jobs where a high level of intelligence is needed. With job polarisation only a small amount of people are working at the unskilled and the highly skilled continuum, in contrast, the big middle sector is unemployed.
The labour market of the future
We will redefine the term unemployed in the future. Whether a person receives an income will not be part of the definition of what it means to be unemployed. Governments will ensure with new types of taxes that the unemployed will be compensated for the job loss. The unemployed will receive a basis income from the government.
If the pending restructuring of the labour market is not managed with care it will lead to great inequality in the lives of the normal citizen. Work in the capitalist system was always seen as a way to enhance the financial level and self-sufficiency of an individual. If the big middle class is excluded from the labour marker it will lead to a polarisation of the socio-economic state of citizens. We all can think of instances in the history where great differentiation in the social and economic status of people led to unrest.
The solution may be to make the basis income high enough to limit the discrepancy of the economic status of citizens or to limit (income control) the salaries of the employed. Both solutions will lead to the dissatisfaction of the people that actually are required to work.
What is basic income?
An Unconditional Basic Income (UBI) is an income unconditionally granted to all members of a political community on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement. Unlike existing minimum income schemes in European countries, UBI is universal, individual, unconditional, and high enough to ensure an existence in dignity and participation in society. AI revolution will not only change the labour market but will also have a devastating effect on the psychological health of individuals and communities.
High enough: The amount should provide for a decent standard of living, which meets society’s social and cultural standards in the country concerned. It should prevent material poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society and to live in dignity.
The socio-economic sphere
Since the the agricultural revolution more than 10,000 years ago, human survival has been linked to working. With the loss of jobs, it is going to be a whole new ball game. It seems that the issue won’t be a lack of profit or capital but that workers will not be needed to generate profit.
The basis income principle is seen as an option to compensate and manage the unemployed affected by the AI revolution. Basis income will provide a decent standard of living for the affected group, which meets society’s social and cultural standards in the country concerned. It should prevent material poverty and provide the opportunity to participate in society and to live in dignity.
The effect of unemployment on the society
Unemployment affects not just the person himself but also his/her family and in the long run the society where he or she lives.
Unemployment brings with it despair, unhappiness and anguish. It forces people to live their lives in a way they do not wish to.
My opinion is that the following issues must be considered before basis income is seen as the only solution for the loss of jobs:
The disappearance of jobs may be the biggest event in the labour- and political arena since the agricultural revolution. We must start thinking very seriously: What will humans do when machines can do almost everything? As Vardi put it “We have to redefine the meaning of good life without work”.
André Beukes is an EU Management Consultant to international companies doing business in Europe. He provides clients with practical business support that makes a real difference doing business in the EU. “Put simply, I am here to help you meet your challenges. I believe in the importance of doing things correctly, meaning risks are reduced and problems are avoided.”