Louise Haagh, an associate professor at the University of York and chair of the Basic Income Earth Network, spoke to Sputnik about the pros and cons of universal basic income (UBI).
Professor Haagh is one of a number of politicians and academics who, in the last five years — as growing predictions suggest automation will make millions unemployed globally — have supported the idea of a universal basic income, a minimum level of income which would be paid to everyone and would offset the hardship of being made redundant.
Sputnik: Will the introduction of UBI lead to people becoming less inclined to work and more dependent?
Louise Haagh: There is very little evidence or reason to think that, in of itself, giving people a basic economic security would make them lazy or unwilling to work. You cannot make a direct connection between one policy instrument and how people will behave in what are much more complex contexts. What we need to talk about is what are the positive complimentalities which you can imagine if you have in place an unconditional basic income which would give people the incentive to work without the disincentive which currently exists of losing your benefit or entitlement.
Sputnik: Does the European Union have the financial capacity to subsidize this scheme?
Louise Haagh: I’m not aware of an official proposal for a pan-European single-level uniform basic income from the EU and of course that depends on the design, whether you imagine you would move towards a basic income system to converting based on tax reliance, lowest level of benefits, pension change benefits into this unified thing which could have various levels depending on age of course or whether you’d go about doing it some other way. If you were to do it very gradually, starting with younger age groups, and if you did it that way then the question of immediate cost would fade into the background.
Sputnik: To what extent do you think UBI could reduce the unemployment rate — if at all?
Louise Haagh: In conjunction with other sensible policies appropriate to the context and question, I don’t see UBI would have a negative effect on employment of course. There is really no basis for thinking that would be the case because, if we assume, with basic income people can earn additional income without fear of losing their status regarding their basic security.
Sputnik: Do plans for the introduction of UBI have any relationship to increased automation of production? Could it be many jobs in future will be entrusted to computers and robots?”
Louise Haagh: Basic income will certainly alleviate the effects, at an individual level, in a way which it would be very hard for states to do, if we imagine there would be large-scale job losses. But I think one can exaggerate and extrapolate too much because it is very context-dependent.