EU universal income must be 'seriously considered' as rise of robots threatens mass unemployment, say MEPs

We have to think about universal revenue, because if there are so many unemployed people, we need to insure that they can have a decent life, says MEP Ms Delvaux-Stehres

May Bulman
Saturday 14 January 2017 19:36
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EU universal income must be 'seriously considered' amid rise of robots

MEPs have warned European countries must “seriously” consider introducing a general basic income to prepare for wide scale unemployment that could come as a result of robots taking over manual jobs.

A draft report, tabled by a socialist MEP Mady Delvaux-Stehres, warns preparations must be made for what it describes as the “technological revolution” currently taking place, including provisions for the “possible effects on the labour market of robotics”.

The report, which passed by 17 votes to two and will be put in front of the entire European Parliament in February, urges member states to consider a general basic income in preparation for robots taking over people's jobs.

It states: “In the light of the possible effects on the labour market of robotics and AI a general basic income should be seriously considered, and invites all Member States to do so.”

The resolution also suggests that a system of reporting on how robotics are affecting the economic results of companies should be established “for the purpose of taxation and social security contributions”.

In an interview, Ms Delvaux-Stehres said such a consideration was important to ensure that even if growing unemployment rises due to the technological revolution, people can still "have a decent life".

Ms Delvaux-Stehres said: “We ask the commission to look at what kind of jobs — or more precisely what kind of tasks — will be taken over by robots.

“There needs to be a discussion about whether we need to change our social security systems. And even whether we have to think about universal revenue, because if there are so many unemployed people, we need nevertheless to insure that they can have a decent life.

“These are different scenarios that need to be studied and be prepared for.”

The report comes at a time when the idea of universal has begun to gain momentum around the world.

Earlier this month, Finland became the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens a basic monthly income of €560 (around £480) as part of a radical two-year pilot project aimed at reducing poverty and joblessness, while also cutting national spending and bureaucracy.

A similar scheme is to be piloted by two Scottish councils this year, while in December a Canadian province voted unanimously in favour of trialling a universal basic income for its citizens in partnership with the national government.​

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