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Ville-Veikko Pulkka, “A free lunch with robots – can a basic income stabilise the digital economy?”

Ville-Veikko Pulkka, a public policy researcher and doctoral candidate at the University of Helsinki, has published his paper “A free lunch with robots – can a basic income stabilise the digital economy?” in European Review of Labour and Research.

Pulkka was previously employed as part of the research team at Kela, the Finnish Social Insurance Institution, responsible for the design and preparation of the nation’s two-year experiment replacing conditional unemployment benefits with an unconditional basic income.

The Finnish experiment has been the topic of most of his previous published work and presentations related to basic income (including presentations at conferences in Switzerland, Poland, Finland, and Ireland).

Pulkka’s research at the University of Helsinki, including his doctoral dissertation, centers on the implications of the digital economy for labor and public policy.

“A free lunch with robots,” his latest publication on basic income, moves away from focus on the Finnish experiment to explore the latter topic in more general terms:  

The discussion on the possible implications of the digital economy for labour continues unabated. An essential dimension of the discussion is the widely shared view that a basic income could guarantee sufficient purchasing power for unemployed, underemployed and precarious workers should technological unemployment and labour market insecurity increase. A budget-neutral basic income has serious limitations as an economic stabilisation grant, but if financing proposals are revised, these limitations can be tackled. Even though guaranteeing sufficient purchasing power for unemployed, underemployed and precarious workers does not necessarily require an unconditional universal benefit, it seems clear that traditional activation based on strict means-testing and obligations will not be a strategy flexible enough to guarantee sufficient consumer demand in fluctuating labour markets. An economically sustainable solution might be to reduce means-testing gradually and to study carefully the effects.

The full article is available behind a paywall here.


Reviewed by Russell Ingram.

Photo CC BY-NC 2.0 Helen Taylor

Kate McFarland

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 500 articles.

I was a statistician, then a philosopher, then a journalist for a certain Basic Income News, and I have never been the sort to wed myself to any specific position or career path. (I have always chosen to remain in the precariat for this reason: my sense of duty is strong enough that I’d risk imperiling my own self-development if I were to accept a permanent position.) If you want to learn more about what I’m about, and how I see my ideal roles in the basic income community going forth, read the “cover letter” of sorts that is my Patreon homepage (updated November 2017).

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