News; News & Events

GERMANY: Remarks by CEO of Europe’s largest engineering company spark interest in UBI

On November 20, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Joe Kaeser, CEO of the multibillion-dollar engineering company Siemens AG, has demanded a basic income.

According to the news report, Kaeser, speaking at the Süddeutsche Zeitung Economic Summit in Berlin, said that a basic income would eventually be necessary to protect workers who become displaced due to artificial intelligence and automation. Subsequently, many readers credited Kaeser with support for unconditional basic income (bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen), as endorsed by BIEN.

In later remarks, however, Kaeser clarified that he does not demand an unconditional basic income–as the Siemens Press Office tweeted on November 22:


Source: Siemens Press Office (via Twitter)

While Kaeser believes that the state must offset the hardships faced by those whose jobs are adversely affected by technological progress, he does not believe that the support must be unconditional.

Despite Kaeser’s own subsequent disavowal of UBI, the initial (and perhaps misleading) news report generated a surge of interest in the idea. Süddeutsche Zeitung itself–Germany’s largest subscription newsletter–followed its article about Kaeser with a week-long series on basic income.

One article revisited the ideas of Götz Werner, the billionaire founder of the drugstore chain Drogerie Markt who called for a universal and unconditional basic income of 1000€ per month. Others provided further commentary on Kaeser’s initially reported statement that a “kind of basic income” will be unavoidable in the face of automation.

In comments to Basic Income News, Ronald Heinrich of the basic income political party Bündnis Grundeinkommen described Kaeser’s remarks as a “tipping point” in German media coverage of basic income.


Max Hägler (November 20, 2016) “Siemens-Chef plädiert für ein Grundeinkommen,” Süddeutsche Zeitung [German]

Joe Kaeser photo CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 CSIS

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • For the second time, I have posted a comment which has been rejected as spam Why?
    I have not posted it elsewhere
    If it is because I do not sign up for the newsletter, that is because I already receive it, so please do NOT send me duplicates.
    Here it is again:
    Kaeser has clearly not thought through the case for the UBI As Germany’s benefits are means tested, t should be easy to counter his retraction.
    But I appear to remain the only person who sees the UBI as necessary to underpin any attempt tos top trashing the ecosphere.

    • Kate McFarland

      1. No idea why your comments are being rejected as spam. I’ll ask the web team. (Also, I unchecked the newsletter box — so, if this comment posts, that is evidence against that hypothesis.)

      2. I think there are a few others — though, I agree, definitely not enough. For example, I recently uploaded this autobiography of Jan Otto Andersson. Have you read his work? He mentions, e.g, “I became absorbed with the relation between ecological limits and BI. In BIEN’s 2012 congress in Munich, I presented the paper “Degrowth with basic income – the radical combination”. A related article “Basic Income from an ecological perspective” was published in Basic Income Studies. …”

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