During the World Economic Forum during 23rd-26th January in Davos, Switzerland, universal basic income (UBI) will be discussed at several sessions:
11:00 GMT 23 January: How Is Rentier Capitalism Aggravating Inequality?
For the summary, speakers and live streaming, please see here.
11:30 GMT 26 January: Guaranteed Income for Growth?
For the summary, speakers and live streaming, please see here.
Guy Standing, a Research Professor in Development Studies, University of London, and an honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network, who will be on the panels of the above two sessions, will also speak for UBI in the following two sessions:
13:30 GMT 23 January: Social Safety Nets for the Fourth Industrial Revolution
16:30 GMT 23 January: Bringing Dignity with Basic Income
The details of these two sessions is not yet disclosed online. UBI was also discussed the World Economic Forum held in 2017.
The World Economic Forum has published an article on unconditional basic income (UBI) by prominent advocateScott Santens as part of its 2017 Annual Meeting, commonly referred to by its location, Davos.
Santens’ article explains the concept of UBI for newcomers and tackles common reservations and misconceptions. Responding, for instance, to those who argue that it is wasteful to provide a UBI to those who don’t need it, only to recoup this amount in taxes (as prominent economist Thomas Piketty does in a recentblog post), Santens draws an analogy with seat belts. He claims that, while it could be said to be similarly wasteful to install seat belts in the cars of drivers who never crash, “we recognize the absurd costs of determining who would and wouldn’t need seat belts, and the immeasurable costs of being wrong. We also recognize that accidents don’t only happen to ‘bad’ drivers. They can happen to anyone, at any time, purely due to random chance. As a result, seat belts for everyone.”
Beyond defending UBI against such practical critiques, Santens encourages imaginative thinking about its far-reaching implications, outlining some aspects of its transformative potential: “UBI has the potential to better match workers to jobs, dramatically increase engagement, and even transform jobs themselves through the power UBI provides to refuse them.“
The World Economic Forum is a nonprofit foundation, “committed to improving the state of the world” through public-private cooperation. Its flagship annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, recently included apanel on basic income, featuring Guy Standing, cofounder of BIEN.
The editor of The Economist will interview Standing on the precariat on January 17. Additionally, Standing will take part in a session on basic income on January 18.
By invitation only, the WEF’s annual Davos conference brings together over 2000 CEOs, political leaders, distinguished academics, and other “notables”, and has come to be regarded as one of the most elite economic and political conferences in the world.
First, and most importantly, Standing argues that a basic income is owed to all as a matter of social justice: “Land, natural resources, and ideas that become ‘intellectual property’ are all part of society’s collective wealth, created and nurtured by generations of our ancestors. So, it is reasonable to argue that everybody should have a modest share, a social dividend, in the form of an equal, modest, individual, unconditional basic income.”
Standing contends that “all assets, including intellectual property, are resources to which all of society has legitimate claim”–recommending, for example, a “special levy on income generated by patents, copyright and other forms of intellectual property” to pay into a sovereign wealth fund.
Additionally, Standing argues that a basic income promotes individual freedom and security–noting that economic security is a requirement for rational decision-making–and removes the poverty and “precarity” traps in current welfare systems. (A precarity trap exists when a would-be worker decides not to accept short-term employment due to delays in benefits processing or other complications that encourage avoidance of temporary changes in benefits status. In this way, existing welfare systems often discourage temporary work.)
Standing also points out that a basic income would be seen as remunerating unpaid labor–and that this, in turn, could encourage more environmentally sustainable lifestyles.
“Care work, voluntary work, community work and the ‘work’ many do in retraining are all statistically unrecognised today, but they are socially valuable, and are not resource depleting, unlike many forms of labour. A basic income would tilt the economic system towards socially and ecologically sustainable growth.”
Finally, although he seems to regard it as a comparatively weaker argument, Standing concludes by claiming that the automation argument–that is, that a basic income is necessary as insurance against a robot job takeover–“should not be dismissed”.
The second, “The 5 biggest lies of global capitalism“ (December 12), discusses “rentier capitalism” — a system in which increasing shares of wealth accrue to those who hold property from which they can extract rents — and explains how (in Standing’s view) it sits at the heart of contemporary economic inequities.
Andrew White, associate professor of creative industries and digital media at the University of Nottingham, argues that ‘those gathering at Davos would be remiss to not consider a basic income as a credible policy response to contemporary anxieties about our role in the modern workplace’.
The pie is growing bigger, there is no guarantee that everyone will benefit if we leave the market alone. In fact, if anything, we think that not everyone will benefit if we leave the market alone. So we need to develop a new system of redistributions, new policies that will redistribute inevitably from those that the market would have rewarded in favour of those that the market would have left behind. Now, having a universal minimum income is one of those ways, in fact, it is one I am very much in favour of, as long as we know how to apply it without taking away incentive to work at the lower end of the market.
[Transcribed by Toru Yamamori from the video. Any inaccuracy belongs to him.]
The session ‘A World Without Work’ was held in partnership with NHK, the Japanese national broadcasting agency. In addition to Pissarides, participants included:
Erik Brynjolfsson, Director, MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy, MIT – Sloan School of Management, USA
Yoshiaki Fujimori, President and Chief Executive Officer, LIXIL Group, Japan
Dileep George, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, Vicarious, USA
Troels Lund Poulsen, Minister for Business and Growth of Denmark
The session was moderated by Hiroko Kuniya, an anchor for NHK and other speakers also discussed basic income. You can watch the highlights form the panel here:
The 2020 BIEN Congress was to be held in Brisbane in Australia from the 28th to the 30th September 2020. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the event has been cancelled. BIEN’s Executive Committee and the Scottish and Australian congress Local Organising Committees have agreed the following statement: ‘The Scottish and Australian Congress Local Organisation Committees have agreed that the current plan is to hold the 2021 BIEN congress in Scotland and the 2022 BIEN congress in Australia.’
A Basic Income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means-test or work requirement. Read more