Shadow chancellor lauds policy for ability to cope with economic transformation brought on by automation
SHADOW Chancellor John McDonnell has said that Labour is considering a form of the universal basic income (UBI) policy, whereby the current benefits system would be replaced by a single universal payment.
Ahead of the launch of a report into the policy by the influential left-wing think-tank Compass tonight (6 June), which will be addressed by McDonnell, the veteran socialist lauded the policy, also called a citizen’s income, which he said “could prepare our country for any revolution in jobs and technology to come”.
McDonnell joins a growing chorus of thinkers on the left including academic Guy Standing and SNP grandee Jim Sillars in calling for the implementation of a UBI in the face of significant changes to the economy brought about by the automation of work by robotics and artificial intelligence and a rapidly ageing population.
“The collapse of a welfare system based on men working in a job for life, combined with the arrival of technology that could replace much of the work that is left, is forcing all politicians to examine basic income as the big policy idea of our time.” Neal Lawson, Compass
Quoted in the Guardian ahead of the report launch in the House of Commons, Compass director Neal Lawson said: “The collapse of a welfare system based on men working in a job for life, combined with the arrival of technology that could replace much of the work that is left, is forcing all politicians to examine basic income as the big policy idea of our time.”
The policy is being considered by Labour as part of McDonnell’s ‘new economics’ project, which seeks to construct an intellectual movement around a new body of left wing economic thought.
Thinkers who have contributed to the project include former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, economics journalist Paul Mason and finance expert Professor Anastasia Nesvetailova.
In May Standing, who is famed for his research into changing patterns of work, delivered a speech at the Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) in Edinburgh about the uses of a UBI approach in Scotland.
The Scottish National Party also passed a motion at its 2016 Spring conference to consider UBI as a policy.
The Tories, meanwhile, have pushed ahead with ‘univeral credit’ – also a single payment mechanism for social security recipients. However, universal credit has been besought with problems including resistance from anti-poverty campaigners and disability rights groups.
Picture courtesy of Garry Knight
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