Jobs won’t pay the bills in the future

By Gwynne Dyer

Gwynne Dyer is an independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.

In a referendum on Sunday, Swiss voters rejected a proposal for a guaranteed annual income for everybody by an overwhelming 78 per cent-22 per cent majority. But the idea was not crazy, and it is not going to go away.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is developing a pilot project for a universal basic income that will launch in January 2017. The Finnish government is designing a trial to see whether giving low-income people a guaranteed basic income destroys their motivation to do any work at all, as critics allege. The idea is not going away because most “real” jobs are on the way out.

The old argument in defence of technological change – that it creates more new jobs than it destroys – no longer holds water. In the 1980s, 8 per cent of new jobs created in the developed economies were in entirely new occupations, from call-centres to computer programmers.

In the 1990s, only 4.4 per cent of the new jobs involved newly invented occupations. In the 2000s, only half a percent did.

So full-time jobs with benefits have declined – only one-quarter of working-age Americans now have one – and the so-called “gigging economy” has not filled the gap. You may be able to stay afloat financially by doing a variety of “gigs” – low-paid, short-term, often part-time jobs – but you will never make ends meet, let alone get a mortgage.

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