The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI), paid by the government to its citizens with few restrictions, has been around for a long time. One of the main justifications for introducing a UBI is the impending changes to the labour market as a result of technology, with advocates arguing that 47% of jobs are at risk from advances in machine learning and robotics.
However other estimates suggest that the number of jobs at risk is much lower, less than 10% on average. Moreover, the fact that some occupations are lost does not mean that the workers in those jobs will be permanent unemployed. In fact there is little evidence of technological unemployment in current employment data.
Yet there is a lot of evidence that a UBI would be unaffordable, with a 10 year cost of between $2.3 trillion and $1.1 trillion, depending on whether welfare recipients are made worse off. This is unaffordable with the current taxation system and would involve enormous additional taxation. All current proposals to raise additional revenue by both Labor and the Coalition combined would cover less than 10% of the cost of a UBI. Without a funding plan, a UBI doesn’t stack up.
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