Experimenting with universal basic income

In the modern world, everybody should have the opportunity to work and to thrive. Most countries can afford to make sure that everybody has their basic needs covered. One idea that could help make this a reality is a universal basic income. This concept should be further explored to see how it can work practically.

I was in Finland earlier this year for a meeting with The Elders. Finland is among the countries where experiments with universal basic income are already happening. A two-year nationwide social experiment to pay its unemployed citizens an unconditional monthly sum of €560 has been underway since January 1st. 2,000 unemployed Finns aged 25 to 58 are taking part in the experiment, with the income replacing previous social benefits.

A key point is that the money will be paid even if the people find work. The initiative aims to reduce unemployment and poverty while cutting red tape, allowing people to pursue the dignity and purpose of work without the fear of losing their benefits by taking a low-paid job.

Momentum for universal basic income is growing. The Guardian has previously reported on Dalia Research’s findings that 68 per cent of people across the EU who would “definitely or probably” vote in favour of universal basic income in some form. Cities across the Netherlands are launching their first universal basic income trials in October later this year. Other cities in Italy, Canada and Scotland are also at various stages of investigating and launching trials. Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and senior Vatican members are among those who have raised the idea too.

We discussed the details, pros and cons of such initiatives at The Elders meeting. What I took away from the talks was the sense of self-esteem that universal basic income could provide to people. The hope is that policies like these can help people struggling just to survive and allow them to get on their feet, be entrepreneurial and be more creative.

At the moment, the trials that have taken place have been local in size and vary in how they’ve been implemented. So we’ve still got far to go before we can prove they can work on a larger scale.  I would urge you to watch Rutger Bregman’s excellent TED Talk on why we should give everyone a basic income, which outlines the benefits to individuals and wider society very well.

With the acceleration of AI and other new technology, which Virgin’s Future Visions podcast is investigating, the world is changing fast. A lot of exciting new innovations are going to be created, which will generate a lot of opportunities and a lot of wealth, but there is a real danger it could also reduce the amount of jobs. This will make experimenting with ideas like basic income even more important in the years to come.

What are your views on the idea? Let us know on social or in the comments below.

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