SWITZERLAND: World Economic Forum founder considers basic income “basically plausible”

Economist Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, expressed optimism about unconditional basic income (bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen) in an interview with Hamburger Abendblatt, a daily newspaper in Hamburg, Germany. Schwab called the idea “basically plausibly” and predicted that discussion about it would develop over the next decade.

  

The Hamburger Abendblatt interview covered a range of topics related to globalization and digitalization. At one point, the reporters asked Schwab about his assessment of US President Donald Trump’s contention that he will bring back jobs from Asia and Mexico. In reply, Schwab pointed out that some industry might return to the US in the form of “digitized factories”.

Schwab then broached the idea of unconditional basic income in response to a follow-up question about the future of work: if industry is becoming digitized, what should be done for “those for whom there is no longer any work”?

In Switzerland, there was recently a referendum about the unconditional basic income. At least 23% of the citizens voted for it. Even I assent the idea for a basic income is basically plausible. Furthermore, I believe in 10 years the discussion about it will be far more ahead than now.

In response to a question about the effect of a basic income on attitudes toward work, Schwab asserts that a basic income could be seen as recognition for certain types of work, such as care work, that are important to society but currently paid relatively low wages:

I deny that people would then put their hands in their lap and sit lazily at home. A nurse in Germany with 2000 euros gross pay might today feel worn out. If, however, she were to receive a basic income, she might see it as recognition, and she would have a different basic attitude towards her work. In the future, if jobs are swept away due to digitalization, we need on the other hand a humanization of society. Industrial jobs will be gone, but there will be more social work to be done, like medical and health care.

 

The World Economic Forum is best known for its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Held each year in January, the Davos meeting brings together approximately 2,500 invited guests, comprising top business executives, political leaders, and distinguished academics, for a series of panels and discussions of pressing global economic, political, and social issues.

The Davos meeting itself has already proven receptive to discussions of basic income. This year, the event will include a panel on basic income, featuring BIEN cofounder Guy Standing. Last year, the event held a forum on a “world without work”, in which Nobel laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides expressed support for a basic income guarantee, and was the site of the dancing “robots for basic income”.

 

 

Full interview with Schwab (in German):

Hannes Koch and Jörg Quoos “Schwab: ‘Gewinner müssen mit Verlierern solidarisch sein’,” Hamburger Abendblatt, January 9, 2017.

 

Translation assistance by Ronald Heinrich. Reviewed by Danny Pearlberg.

Photo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 World Economic Forum

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 410 articles.

Kate has previously worked as a professional student, but is currently taking a mid-career retirement.

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2 comments

  • David Dunn

    A UBI is essential, as is the transformation of the tax system to be based on the damage caused by all natural resources used by man.

  • Nancy Campbell

    The one way for all governments to make this idea work is to fund it with NEW MONEY, freshly minted, not tax monies.

    ____The expanding GDP in all successful nations needs additional money in circulation to assist with the increased flow of goods and products and produce. So far, no nation has ever managed to add NEW MONEY into the world economy. They always call it debt that has to be paid back.

    ____Also, they always fund these programs with tax money, not from NEW MONEY that later becomes tax money from the increased taxable incomes being generated.

    ____Also, these NEW MONEY funds, (from the Grass-Roots-Up,) ought to be distributed evenly to every adult person in a nation, not to just one group or another. It would become a civic responsibility,( not a :basic income,) for individuals to put the NEW MONEY into circulation from right where they happen to be.

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