Warren: Is universal basic income the future?

London Free Press

Global capitalism has a serious problem. Organizations such as Oxford University and the Brookings Institute say nearly 50 per cent of today’s jobs are “at risk” of being computerized over the next 20 years.

At its 2016 annual meeting, the World Economic Forum predicted a “fourth industrial revolution” that will result in a net loss of five million jobs over the next five years in 15 countries.

Across the globe workers angrily denounce the shortage of jobs that pay enough to support decent way of life. The middle class in many advanced countries feel they are being hollowed out.

People who feel they have nothing to lose often make self-defeating political decisions. Witness Brexit in the U.K., Donald Trump in America and the ascension of Doug Ford in Ontario.

Business, in its own self-interest, is groping for ways to reform capitalism so its economic proceeds are spread more equitably. But answers that satisfy all the stakeholders are hard to find.

Leaders around the world are trying to balance the push for austerity, fighting poverty and the erosion of steady, full-time jobs.

Some governments in this country are trying to help the middle class by using the tax system to redistribute income and by strengthening our social safety nets. But income disparity persists and populism lurks.

Enter stage left, the universal basic income (UBI).

It usually involves government giving everyone a basic income regardless of earnings or whether they are working. The money ensures everyone has food and shelter while removing the stigma of public welfare.

It allows the market system to continue delivering economic growth while also providing a meaningful safety net for those who are impacted by capitalism’s creative destruction.

It is designed to give the unemployed and poverty-level workers an opportunity to find better jobs, learn new skills, start a business, organize for better conditions, volunteer in their community or engage in creative pursuits.

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