Credit Picture CC(OECD/Marco Illuminati)
The OECD published “The Future of Work Employment Outlook 2019”.
Change is underway, driven by digitalisation, globalization, and demographic changes, and will impact each and every way in which our society operates. While on the one hand these mega-trends can amplify our capacity to better our lives, on the other they also pose challenges, which need to be dealt with.
With estimates suggesting that 14% of jobs are at risk of disappearing completely in the next decades and 32% changing radically, middle skilled jobs are particularly exposed to the transformation, with the risk of a hollowing out of the middle class: automation works “from the middle out”. The transition will bring to the emergence of many lower quality jobs on one side, and to other with a high degree of knowledge intensity. The risk is that earning inequalities between low and high skilled workers will increase.
“Shaping a future of work that is more inclusive and rewarding calls for a Transition Agenda for a Future that Works for All- a whole-of-government approach that targets interventions on those who needs it most”
Traditional means of income support will need to be revised, as they leave out a great number of precarious workers, which will make up for a greater share of the labour force. In the context of a flexible job market, which will see an increase in the number of entries and exits, and the need for continuous modernization of skills and work practices, the design of new systems of workers protection will become pivotal to the functioning of societies.
Workers outside of the traditional form of contract are the one in the direst situation, as access to social protection is difficult for workers in non-standard employment; those who are falsely self-employed, finding themselves under the yoke of employers who don’t want to be held accountable for them. With little control over their wage and their working hours, they are the ones requiring more protection.
With non-traditional workers 50% less likely to be unionized, the emergence of monopsony in the labour market cannot be discarded, and with the instrument of collective bargaining lacking, changes to address the problem by providing the employees with more leverage are required.
Whilst the outlook discards universal basic income (UBI) as being too costly, this says nothing about its actual capacity to work as a solution. It is true that the main obstacle to the introduction of a UBI is to find its source of financing, but the measure’s design would help solving many of the problem arising in the labour market, as recent publications by the World Bank and the International Labour Organization pointed out.
Article reviewed by Dawn Howard.
More information at:
OECD, The Future of Work
Transportation is not the only sector where automation is eating away jobs. Large commercial ports are also being hit hard, as recent events in Vancouver show. Workers at the Port of Vancouver went on strike last month, due to a pressing issue on automation with the employer Global Containers Terminal (GCT). According to the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), pressing automation technology has the capacity “to eliminate 80 to 90 percent of the [human] labour requirements”.
McKinsey & Company consulting firm has studied global port operations and concluded that automated ports are safer, more predictable, much cheaper to operate (25 to 55%) and more productive (10 to 35%). Although significant technical hurdles still exist, it seems only a matter of time until these predictions come true, especially when, actually, a few automation efforts have already been proven successful (e.g.: fully automated port in Los Angeles-Long Beach, semi-automated facilities in New York-New Jersey, and Virginia, USA).
Worker unions in this field naturally oppose any suggestion of automation, for the obvious reason that it might displace their jobs, from which workers extract their livelihood. However, falling costs of automation technologies is quickly shortening the gap to economic implementation, and so human labour is losing ground. This shouldn’t be a problem, of course, if human jobs where not tightly linked to access resources. As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has eloquently stated, earlier this year, “our technological advancement as a society has outpaced our system for handling finite resources”, and “we live in a society where if you don’t have a job you are left to die”. Although that reality could be more sharply defined in the United States than, for instance, Finland, the link exists virtually everywhere in the so-called “developed” world, but fortunately is starting to be contested as the global discussion around basic income progresses.
But maybe there should be no content here, between ILWU members and GCT, or any other worker-employer dispute over automation. Maybe jobs should not be the sole vehicle to get the necessary money to access the necessary Earth resources to live on. As Scott Santens has put it, on a by-now famous writing: “It’s time for technology to serve all humankind. Jobs are for machines. Life is for people.”
More information at:
Charlie Smith, “Automation at the heart of labour dispute at Port of Vancouver”, The Georgia Straight, May 26th 2019
Bill Mongelluzzo, “Vancouver, Prince Rupert terminals may consider automation”, JOC.com, June 5th 2019
Daniele Fabbri, “United States: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on automation”, Basic Income News, March 26th 2019
Scott Santens, “It’s Time for Technology to Serve all Humankind with Unconditional Basic Income”, Medium, April 13th 2018
A nearly-packed auditorium of mostly young Taiwanese arrived on an early Saturday morning to learn about Universal Basic Income and its role in addressing key trends for the next generation.
This is the third year UBI Taiwan held its international summit in Taipei to push discussion of basic income on March 16. This year’s conference focused on the challenges Taiwan and the global economy is facing in the coming decade and what steps could be taken to make basic income a feasible solution.
Dr. Sarath Davala, vice chair of Basic Income Earth Network, was the keynote speaker for the second year in a row. Davala said this year’s attendees were even more enthusiastic.
“UBI Taiwan exudes unique energy and dedication to the idea of basic income. This kind of energy is perhaps rare in the basic income movement. Nowhere in the world, have I seen such critical mass of students collectively excited about basic income,” Davala said.
Dr. Ryan Engen, an economic officer at the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), the unofficial U.S. embassy in Taiwan, gave the opening speech for the conference. Engen said basic income is “perhaps the most promising policy” to address Taiwan and the world’s economic transformations.
“If you can succeed in what you are trying to do, I actually think it has the potential to be the tipping point that changes the direction for the rest of the world, and that’s not an exaggeration,” Engen said.
In justifying the need to explore basic income, Engen discussed how the return on capital has outstripped income, which has exacerbated global income inequality.
The world is moving toward nationalism as a result of globalization and automation, which requires “creating a new global social contract that leaves nobody behind,” Engen said.
Guy Standing, BIEN’s co-founder, provided a video message for the conference Taiwan. He said Taiwan’s activists should frame basic income primarily in human rights terms, rather than as just an economic policy.
“Basic income is a matter of social justice,” Standing said. “We believe every man, woman, and child has a right to a share of the public wealth of the Commons from the wealth generated over generations, whether it is in Taiwan, China, Britain or anywhere else.”
Standing said while basic income would reduce poverty, this should not be the primary focus of Taiwan’s UBI movement.
“We must constantly stress the ethical basis of the campaign for basic income,” Standing said.
In the final round-table discussion, Ta-Ching Shih, a Taiwanese economic specialist at AIT, said basic income activists in Taiwan must first get attention to the idea and then focus on the policy specifics later.
Peter Knight, a former World Bank economist and a member of Fernand Braudel Institute of World Economics, also produced a video message for the conference where he discussed the economic rationale for basic income.
Knight said Taiwan is likely to face high levels of job automation in the coming years, along with Japan, Singapore, and South Korea. Taiwan’s coming status as a super-aged society may also induce consideration of whether basic income could help alleviate this issue, he said.
“UBI and progressive taxation to finance it, and the use of advanced labor-saving technologies are the key policies for Taiwan to achieve economic, social, political, and ecological sustainability,” Knight said.
Professor Ku Yun-wen from National Taiwan University’s Social Work Department went through a detailed analysis of Taiwan’s welfare policies and discussed how basic income may fit into the system.
Ku had previously written a report on UBI for Taiwan’s National Development Council, Taiwan’s Executive Yuan policy planning agency.
Professor Fong from National Taiwan University’s Economic’s Department provided insight into some of the relevant economic trends to basic income, such as increasing automation and its potential impact in Taiwan.
The conference was assisted in funding from the U.S. State Department’s Critical Language Scholarship through the Alumni Development Fund (ADF).
Before Alan Krueger passed away, he discussed the prospects of basic income in Taiwan with James Davis, one of the managers for this ADF project. Krueger was the former chair of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers.
Krueger agreed Taiwan implementing basic income would likely inspire conversation around the world. However, Krueger said “there is a lot of work to be done.”
Professor Hou-ming Huang, the director of National Chengchi University’s Sociology Department, presented on the economic and philosophical transitions of humanity throughout history.
A journalist from Taiwan’s magazine The Reporter spoke on the misinformation that is often spread in Taiwan and global media regarding basic income.
Despite this misinformation, Davala said he is optimistic about the future of basic income’s development in Taiwan.
“I am sure that the debate in Taiwan will progress beyond conference halls and to the policy corridors,” Davala said.
Engen ended his remarks by noting Taiwan could play a very important role in the global UBI movement.
Taiwan is a “melting pot” of international influence and is at the center of global supply chains, Engen pointed out. Taiwan is also the “most progressive example in all of the Indo-Pacific,” he said.
“UBI happening here in Taiwan is very different than it happening anywhere else because Taiwan is a fully developed market democracy that is a technology epicenter of the world,” Engen said. “If UBI happened here it would send ripple effects around the world.”
In the run-up to the conference, Elyse Mark and Brian Anderson, who were also managers of the ADF project, produced interviews with U.S. scholars. Mark interviewed a legislative director for a councilmember of the District of Columbia council who produced a policy report on implementing minimum income in DC. Anderson interviewed an economist to understand the benefits of basic income across Taiwan and the United States. Davis also worked with Stanford’s Basic Income Lab to understand the context for how research there could help propel basic income frameworks for Taiwan.
Picture credit to: Ståle Grut / NRKbeta
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC), during a talk at SXSW, was addressed by a tech entrepreneur with a question about automation (how should we act as a society and how will we be able to find a purpose in life as jobs are appropriate by machines).
AOC’s answer placed automation in the broader context of socio-economic inequality: automation is not the problem, and we shouldn’t be haunted by its specter, but rather be excited about it. The problem, AOC states, is that “(…) we live in a society where if you don’t have a job you are left to die (…)”.
The risk is in the reinforcement of the trends that are already occurring with the “automation of injustice”. Automation accelerates economic inequality, she says, and we should be concerned about fixing the current socio-economic system: we are at the most prosperous time in our history, but many are left behind, thus it is imperative for us to figure out new ways to administrate wealth.
While AOC did not address Universal Basic Income (UBI) directly, her view on the matter seems compatible with those seeing it as the necessary answer to the fourth industrial revolution.
Whether the solution is “taxing robots” as proposed by Bill Gates (which AOC considers a clever, acceptable way to suggest taxing corporations), higher tax rates on top income brackets, or some form of wealth redistribution, we need to entertain ideas that would leave us with the possibility to siphon off the benefits brought by automation. It could give us the potential to focus more on studying, inventing and creating art: “Not all creativity should be bound by wage,” she says.
By entering a time in which scarcity is no longer the only reality known to man, and with capitalism being based on scarcity, “our technological advancement as a society has outpaced our system for handling finite resources”, AOC states.
If the system was not broken, people could already be working less, and focus on activities which are currently not considered work, but that would nonetheless benefit individuals and society. But money is appropriated by corporate greed:
“We’re paid on how little we’re desperate enough to accept. And then the rest is skimmed off and given to a billionaire.”
More information at:
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez | SXSW 2019, YouTube
Adi Robertson, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says ‘we should be excited about automation’, The Verge, March 10th 2019.
The third annual UBI Taiwan international summit will be held in Taipei on March 16, 2019. This year’s theme is “Key Trends of the Next Generation,” focusing on technological development as well as growing income inequality and how these trends intersect with basic income.
Asia has progressed rapidly in the global basic income movement, led by India which has shown intense political interest in implementing policies containing aspects of basic income.
Sarath Davala, Basic Income Earth Network’s Vice Chair, will join the conference to discuss these developments and more in his keynote speech “Basic Income is the Foundation of A Caring Society.”
“This is the third consecutive year that UBI Taiwan is organizing a regional Basic Income Conference. UBI Taiwan is perhaps the only national level basic income group that organizes annual conferences. That is a demonstration of a robust movement, the strength of its leadership and their commitment to the idea of basic income,” Davala said.
Ryan Engen, an Economic Officer at the American Institute in Taiwan, America’s unofficial representative entity in Taiwan, will deliver the opening remarks discussing how digital transformations should make global economies consider updates to our social security systems.
Guy Standing, the co-founder of BIEN, Andrew Yang, the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate, and Peter Knight, the former World Bank economist, will join via pre-recorded messages.
This year, there will be a focus on bringing in academics and opinion makers from across Taiwan. Professors from Taiwan’s premier universities, National Taiwan University and National Chengchi University, as well as influential Taiwanese media figures, will address the conference.
The Critical Language Scholarship’s (CLS) Alumni Development Fund (ADF) provided a grant to help fund the conference and related events. CLS is a language program under the U.S. State Department.
James Davis, the former Field Research Director for UBI Taiwan and one of the project recipients for the ADF grant, said the conference demonstrates UBI Taiwan’s commitment to pushing this discussion in Asia and around the world.
“UBI Taiwan is here to change everything. We are not content with a society where wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few, as the wages of the working class fall year after year,” Davis said.
Davala has participated in every conference since it began in 2017.
“I am proud to be a regular participant of these conferences. I wish UBI Taiwan team success for this conference. With their kind of energy and dedication to basic income, I am sure one-day UBI will be a reality in Taiwan,” Davala said.
Brian Anderson, a senior at Western Kentucky University and also a recipient of the ADF grant, said this conference will help create academic connections between Taiwan and the United States.
“The push for UBI deserves international support and my project seeks to promote mutual understanding of shared interests between Taiwanese and American citizens,” Anderson said.
For Davis, society’s “inadequate” support for parents and caregivers as well as the financial difficulties faced by students illustrate the reasons why Taiwan should consider a basic income.
“UBI is the future. And UBI Taiwan is here to deliver,” Davis said.
The full conference information can be found on the UBI Taiwan website and on the Facebook event (Chinese).