Universal Basic Income Schemes Stoked by Robotics Fears

In the News
February 27, 2017

As fears of automation continue to be stoked worldwide, some pundits have responded with proposals for a universal basic income. But what are the numbers behind UBI schemes, and do they add up?

Parts of the news media and politicians have expressed concerns that robots and artificial intelligence will replace millions of jobs in the coming years. Automation threatens an average of 57 percent of all jobs in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) member countries, according to a report from the University of Oxford.

The OECD’s members include Australia, Canada, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Korea, and the U.S. The university and Citigroup Inc. published the widely cited study in January 2016.

If that’s not enough to jolt you, then look at Africa. The same Oxford report predicted that 85 percent of jobs in Ethiopia and more than 50 percent of jobs in Angola, Mauritius, South Africa, and Nigeria are susceptible to being automated.

How might different nations deal with millions of people put out of work by automation, and what are the social, economic, and geopolitical ramifications? More immediately, how are governments responding with UBI proposals, and how will these affect robotics businesses?

Business Takeaways:

  • All countries, regardless of their socioeconomic status, supposedly face a high risk of automation. For example, 57 percent of jobs in OECD states could be automated.
  • Many governments are considering universal basic income and new tax policies in preparation for increasing adoption of robotics and AI.
  • Geopolitical consequences of automation could include social instability, bans on automation, and the challenge for robotics businesses to prove such assumptions wrong.

Canadians consider UBI an automation safety net

Pick a spot on the map, and you’ll find a universal basic income scheme. In Canada, the province of Ontario plans to issue a basic income to people living below the poverty line in three cities. The province will choose the cities later this spring. One criterion is how much a city has been affected by losses in manufacturing jobs.

Prince Edward Island, a maritime province in eastern Canada, has approved the development of a UBI program.

Meanwhile, in British Columbia, the Green Party has proposed a basic income for at least five years. UBI proponents are also emerging in Alberta and have existed in Quebec for years.

Is robotics forcing Canadian provinces to investigate universal basic income?

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