Michael Strobaek, Global Chief Investment Officer (CIO) of Switzerland’s second largest bank Credit Suisse (CS), is interviewed in the December 2017 issue of CS’s “Bulletin“, dedicated to questions around aging. According to Strobaek, it will be crucial to secure the livelihood of the millions of people who will be unemployed through technological development, automation and robotization, and that this has to be done through some sort of unconditional basic income (UBI). Although Strobaek has not provided any specifics about UBI, he is clear that it is required by future unemployment. This future unemployment, however has not been proven as a fact. Despite often cited reports, there is still no proven link between automation and net job loss, since these reports focus on job destruction, not job creation. For an alternative view, that finds that new technology will create new jobs as well as destroying old ones, see Ursula Huws’ article.
Asked who would be supposed to pay for the UBI, Strobaek answers: “The taxpayer. But the question then becomes just what is being taxed? Bill Gates proposed a robot tax to replace the income tax and social security contributions that will be lost through automation. As a society, we still need to find answers to this question.” But according to Strobaek the main challenge relates to future possibilities for human activities when there is very little paid work left. He suggests that “the structures of the world of work will need to be replaced by individual and self-selected structures. Intrinsic motivations will replace extrinsic ones. (…) When people have material security, then they will be able to become involved in the care of older people or of children”. This, however, seems to be in conflict with a deep job-centered logic that he defends throughout the interview, alongside a defence of large families, fearing for population and social security system decline.
Although Strobaek’s interview supports UBI, there is no information indicating whether this is the view of the CS board of directors, or of CS in general. Big banks do not usually publicize particular positions or make their own proposals, except about taxation and regulation within their own framework or on behalf of their clients, since they are doing business with a wide variety of clients, who support all political orientations. There is also no evidence in the interview of an alternative view to Strobaek’s support for UBI. This is consistent with the fact that large financial institutions are generally not criticized in any way in Switzerland, except at times by the political Left.
More information at:
“The New Old Age“, Credit Suisse Bulletin 4th Trimester 2017
Ursula Huws, “The future of work“, personal blog, January 29th 2017
This article was updated by André Coelho and reviewed by Malcolm Torry.