UN Secretary General Encourages Nations To Consider A Universal Basic Income

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio GuterresScreengrab / The United Nations / YouTube

52% of tasks are projected to be replaced by robots by 2025.

United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, gave advocates of universal basic income a reason to be encouraged in his address to the UN the General Assembly on September 25, 2018.According to Inverse, Guterres said:

“The very nature of work will change. Governments may have to consider stronger safety nets and eventually, Universal Basic Income.”

It is against this background of rising income inequality and advances in automation that the idea of universal basic income has gained strength.

In short, a minimum universal basic income would ensure that all people would receive payments (likely from a government) regardless of their need. The purpose of these payments would be to provide society at large a socially acceptable standard of living.

As automation eradicates jobs like data entry workers and postal clerks, 52% of workers are projected to be replaced by robots or software applications by 2025.

Some fear that a basic income would breed sloth in society-at-large. However, real life experiments with basic income (or related ideas) have shown this fear to be unsubstantiated (for instance Alaska's annual oil dividend payment for all residents).

In recent years, [the Alaska dividend has been up to $2,072 per person, or $8,288 for a family of four (it was reduced in 2016 amid a budget crisis).

Alaska’s system set up an ideal experiment. Researchers from the University of Chicago and the University of Pennsylvania compared residents’ behavior before and after the dividend to decide what effect the payments had on workforce participation.

They found that full-time employment did not change at all, and the share of Alaskans who worked part-time jobs increased by 17%.

“Given prior findings on the magnitude of the income effect, it is somewhat surprising for an unconditional cash transfer not to decrease employment,” the paper states.

The authors theorize employment remained steady because the extra income that allowed people to buy more also increased demand for service jobs, a finding consistent with the economic data of the time. (There was no effect seen when it came to jobs, such as those in manufacturing, that produce exports.) Essentially, the authors argue, macro-economic effects of higher spending supported overall employment.

During his speech, Guterres also encouraged global leaders to take more action against climate change.

He said that he remains hopeful about the growth of the green economy and anticipates it to create 24 million new jobs by 2030.