Could Universal Basic Income Enrich Creative and Social Industries?

Paul Sciglar says that as technological innovations potentially spark massive job losses, UBI is an option to consider. Here’s why…

by Paul Sciglar

Extensive growth of the digital economy has impacted every aspect of our lives. From transforming the way we communicate and interact with the world around us, technology has granted humans with seemingly infinite possibilities to make the world a better place. Unfortunately, even with advancements in technology providing us access to innumerable economic opportunities, there remain burgeoning wealth divisions. In addition to inequality, there is a growing collective fear that digital developments will spark huge job losses, ultimately hindering creative and cultural development.

 

Considering growing economic tensions and potential mass unemployment, governments, economists, and businesses have all discussed the idea of implementing a universal basic income. In addition to address various issues, many think a basic income scheme could bolster the creative industries as well. By relieving workers from having to take on jobs purely for survival’s sake, societies would be able to efficiently utilize their talents, resulting in a more diversified and creative workforce.

 

Universal Basic income can revitalize struggling industries

While universal income is not a new concept, the idea has made its way back into the mainstream as the fear that automation will replace human workers. In addition to preparing to fill an economic gap, economists and governments are playing with the idea that universal basic income could revitalize industries that lack the funds to recruit top talent and obtain resources on a regular basis. Socially-focused industries, such as NGOs, social enterprises and coworking spaces all rely on human power. Yet, unlike robots, we need money to survive at socially focused industries historically do not pay the biggest salaries. With a basic monthly payment, workers have more room to decide where it is they want to work based on drive and passion, not economic dependence. In the long-run, it is expected that more autonomous workers would choose to contribute to socially-minded projects, breathing new life into struggling industries. By revitalizing social industries, this will encourage individuals to start their own social and cultural projects in the future.

 

UBI can make room for innovation outside of tech

Innovation is often associated with the digital economy. The development of connected technologies, artificial intelligence, and smart technologies is changing our world, but it’s not the defining limit of our creativity as a species. In fact, a society that is burdened financially has little to no motivation to deviate from opportunities that will pay the bills, whether they like it or not. Thus, by investing too much in already rich industries, like tech and finance, could result in a workforce with limited skillsets. Providing citizens with a monthly basic income can encourage innovation in a wider variety of sectors. In fact workers today have become more socially-minded and vocal about the issues facing the workplace, with a new generation workers rejecting the corporate lifestyle more than ever before. While it cannot be said for sure, there is a good chance that giving people a basic monthly income, regardless of whether they have a job or not, creates space for skilled workers to enter traditionally underfunded sectors, such as care work and education.

 

UBI could make the workplace more social

In the spirit of entrepreneurship, many entrepreneurs and young companies have a vision of making the word a better place. But, it’s difficult to focus on the dream when it can be expensive to keep a business alive. In the early stages of development, it’s imperative that new businesses secure themselves financially, oftentimes resulting in higher levels of stress and overworked employees. Yet, imagine if entrepreneurs and startups didn’t have to worry about personal expenses and could focus their money on worker development and community engagement. With some companies already proving that giving employees more autonomy not only increases employee well-being but also drives innovation, it has become apparent that change is already here. For those who do not have the option to work in a flexible environment, a universal basic income would place less pressure on workers and companies to meet financial targets, allowing them to dedicate more time to developing a more social and supportive working environment.

 

With countries like Finland already planning to provide a basic income to unemployed citizens, in the hopes of combating poverty and boosting engagement in sectors that rely on human power, the reality of a global universal income might not be that far off. While it will certainly take time for the idea to catch on, as many countries still reject the idea, even simply discussing the possibility of an equal society that values both digital and social innovation.

Paul Sciglar is a columnist interested in international policies and economic affairs. Certified Accountant with broad experience in strategic analysis, FP&A, investment banking, and investment management. You may connect with him on Twitter.