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The same money for all?

Is a universal basic income the answer to the transformation of work resulting from the transition to Industry 4.0? Arguments for and against.

What will happen to employees whose work is performed by robots? Should every person in Germany receive money from the government to cover their basic needs? This would be an amount equivalent to the current level of social security plus housing support. The debate on a universal unconditional basic income repeatedly comes to the fore; especially in the face of increasing digitalisation and automation.

One pioneer in this field is drugstore chain founder Götz Werner, who published a book called “Einkommen für alle” (Income for All) in 2007. He argues that every person should be paid an income financed by higher value-added tax. Essentially, this would be a new welfare system. The idea finds some support among associations and parties, but is also a subject of criticism. But what are the arguments for and against it? An overview:

The arguments in favour

An unconditional basic income would be good because ...

  • it could cushion the social impacts of industrial change,
  • it would be less bureaucratic than the existing retirement pension and welfare system,
  • it would be fairer than the existing welfare system,
  • it would give employees greater security and enable personal fulfilment,
  • jobseekers could turn down badly paid jobs in the low-wage sector and
  • the labour market would become more flexible.

The arguments against

An unconditional basic income would be bad because ...

  • it would be almost impossible to pay for from the Federal Budget,
  • the existing welfare system in Germany would be abolished as a result,
  • the effects on the retirement pension fund and social security systems are speculative,
  • funding such a scheme with value-added tax would reduce purchasing power,
  • funding it with a wealth tax or income tax would not be sufficient and also be unfair,
  • there would be a shortage of specialists in rural regions because it would reduce the incentive to work there and
  • hardly anyone would want to work any more.

An unconditional basic income is not yet feasible

Major questions about the pension and welfare system, funding and concrete effects on the labour market remain unanswered. One reason for this is that pilot projects have often not delivered very reliable data. That is because of their temporary nature, which influences the behaviour of the trial participants. Furthermore, the debate is dominated by socialists and liberals. While most trade unions and business organisations reject the idea, its proponents – neoliberal economists and leading politicians in the Left Party – argue about its design.

Video: Juhas life with the basic income (in German only)

Author: Sebastian Grundke

The article was originally published here and was republished with permission from Deutschland.de.

Is an unconditional basic income realistic?

No longer have to work and still get 1.000 Euros per month? The idea of the basic income remains a vision, while its implementation is actively discussed. In the alumni community, too, opinions are divided – some support the idea, others ask “Why should money fall from the skies?” Join the discussion!

Community discussion

August 2018


Roberto La Rosa Robles
3 September 2018

El sistema de la revolución industrial 4 está ideado para que sea así favorable a muy pocos y desfavorables a casi todos. No cabe duda que se vienen conflictos y luchas sociales por la desigual distribución de la riquezas. Este modelo que será cruel e inhumano viene formando una generación de "talentosos robotizados" que serán sus más recalcitrantes defensores, y no tendrán reparo en hacer los ajustes que requiera el sistema para librarse sobre todo de la carga pesada, especialmente la población anciana o los que padecen enfermedades. Estamos a puertas de un modelo industrial que reducirá la esperanza de vida hasta los 40 años, luego del cual serás declarado inservible y dado de baja. Mientras aún se nos permita estos espacios de diálogo y opinión, debemos hacer el esfuerzo para proponer los ajustes a este modelo y sea la vida humana y no los indicadores de rentabilidad el objetivo de nuestra existencia de cara al futuro.

Blagoj Janeshliev
29 August 2018

A very interesting question. Us, coming with a socialist background - this idea is not new at all. If we see things as black and white, some would ask: "Howcome someone would not work at all, and still has the means for a deascent living?". But I would say, in modern and developed societes this is a necessity. I have read somewhere that 66 living persons are rich equally to the half of world's population. Is this in order? Is this in order for a person to have a private Jet, and the children in the pour countries not to have enough to eat or, not to have the necessery medical care to stay healthy?

Some of us are born in underdeveloped countries. Is it in order to be commited to a certain destiny only by your unluckuy place of birth?

I was born in Yugoslavia - a socialst country which system worked. I got free high education and and medical care. The economy was working, security was of high level. But then this country collapsed because of somebodies other countries interests - firstly, the "War Machines" countries. Do I need to name them?

Now I live in Macedonia, in the roughest state of capitalisam. I adapted myself, thanks to my education. I work in a Bank. I have a good sallary. Me and my familiy are stabile.

But, frankly, the freedome, the security, the wellness of the socialism will never be back. Those free blue skies as when I was a child and a young man - I can only tell stories to my children of such the time.

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