WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
Governments fear the fall out from the mass automation of jobs by AI will be extreme so they’re investigating new welfare systems to limit the damage, but solutions are illusive.
4,000 people in Ontario, Canada just lost their Universal Basic Income (UBI) cash and what they thought was a safe guaranteed source of income for the next two years after the Canadian government scrapped their pioneering UBI trial two years early.
In April 2017 the Canadian province launched a trial of UBI, a new form of social welfare program where a government pays its citizens a set amount of money each month with no strings attached, in part to try to minimise the economic and social impact that many fear will, as the EU recently put it “leave no strata of society untouched,” as we continue to see the rise of automation in the global workforce. Ontario’s was the first government backed basic income trial in North America since the 1970s, but now it’s scrapped.
So why did it end? Politics might have something to do with it. When the C$150 million (US$115 million), 4,000 person trial launched, a Liberal government controlled Ontario, but in June, Conservatives took over the province. Though a party spokesperson stated during the lead up to the election that the Conservative government, if elected would continue the basic income trial, the officials have apparently changed their minds.
“It was certainly not going to be sustainable,” Lisa MacLeod, Ontario’s Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services, told reporters at Toronto’s Queens Park. “Spending more money on a broken program wasn’t going to help anyone.”
Ontario’s isn’t the only government unimpressed with basic income. In April, Finland announced it would end its basic income trial at the previously scheduled two year mark, declining to expand the project past its original end date and publishing the results. But there may be more trials to come. Scotland and Hawaii are both currently assessing the feasibility of starting their own basic income trial after the latter passed new legislation to let it move forward, and elsewhere Stockton in California is also said to be about to start its own trial, and if they move forward then they’ll be the first US city government to give a basic income program a shot. And, assuming that trial continues to the end, about 100 families in the city could see their household coffers swell by $500 per month for the next two years.
So while some UBI trials are ending early, and some are seeing mixed results, others are just getting underway so it’ll be interesting to see if any one city or country finds the magic formula to making them viable, especially as the “Robo-pocalypse” as some people are calling apparently gets nearer and nearer to dawning.
Source: The Guardian