The universal basic income has recently been in the spotlight a lot and gotten some controversy. “Who’s going to pay for this?” and “This will just add to the laziness of people!” are some of the arguments against it. “Automation will bring millions of unemployed, we need the basic income!” are the arguments on the pro-side.
But the reasons for the urgency and importance of such a discussion are going deeper. A study of Oxford University estimates that 47 percent of today’s jobs will be replaces by automation and artificial intelligence within the next two decades. Those won’t be just ‚blue collar‘-jobs, such as truckers, but especially and new as a trend many ‚white collar‘-jobs, jobs that require higher qualification such as doctors, lawyers, or software programmers.
Those coming disruptions have intensified the discussions. Not many understand yet how those technological changes are going to affect jobs, and especially not how fast. But the past gives us some indication how changes are accelerating. It took 75 years for the telephone to reach 100 million users. The cell phone only 16 years. Facebook reached 100 million users within 4.5 years, and Pokémon Go achieved the same feat in a week.
Automation and Artificial Intelligence will bring those changes faster than most of us expect. That’s why we have to deal with new concepts that can help us smoothen the job losses or help us think differently about our job world. Robot taxes and unconditional basic income are just two of those options.
That universal basic income is the talk of the town has less to do that we experience job losses or have unpaid jobs only now, but that those jobs are affected mostly filled by men.
But already today we have a lot of people deserving a basic income. Women. Many jobs such as nursing, taking care of family members and relatives, unpaid driving of children and child rearing is done by women. By some estimates the GNP would increase by 40 percent if this unpaid female work would be calculated into the equation.
A discussion about financial remuneration or considering that work into pensions and other social transfers was never considered by male decision makers. But now disruption hits predominantly men and their jobs. And suddenly the discussion about an unconditional universal basic income – or however you want to call such a model – moves into the center of the discussion. Hypocrisy? Weaklings?
Well, both. While some women are now fuming that a serious discussion starts only now and hasn’t been started earlier, others are saying “Finally!” and hope that the ‘strong’ sex recognizes how we have to rethink the role of jobs in our society and economy. And not have gut reactions on obsolete structures of thinking such as capitalism or communism.
As soon as we can detach ourselves from that, the most interesting discussions will begin. And we can only hope that a solution won’t distinguish between men and women.
This article has also been published in German.