South Korea Mulls Universal Basic Income Post-COVID

The Diplomat

The concept of universal basic income (UBI) is simple: provide a set amount of “basic income” for survival to every citizen regularly with no strings attached.

Supporters on the left believe that it will lift people out of poverty and increase the quality of life. On the right, supporters believe that UBI could reduce the burden on the state’s welfare system and maximize individual choices instead. 

In recent years, UBI has attracted more considerable attention with increased concerns over growing economic inequality and the effect of automation upon the labor market.

Switzerland ran a national referendum on UBI in 2016, which was ultimately rejected. Finland recently completed its smaller-scale UBI experiment, which yielded mixed results. Most recently, Andrew Yang ran a remarkable U.S. presidential nomination campaign that inserted his model of UBI, a “freedom fund,” into the mainstream, but Yang did not win the nomination. So far, no country has a national-level basic income policy. 

The COVID-19 outbreak has forced many states to hand out emergency basic income and consider more drastic policies for post-pandemic recovery, potentially lowering the mental barrier around the idea of UBI. In particular, various factors seem to be aligned in South Korea for the beginning of a tangible action for the introduction of UBI.

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