In an recent article by Guy Standing for Social Europe, (Left Should Stop Equating Labour With Work), I found a point about sustainable economic policy very appealing.
My background is in Behavioural Science, where I wrote my thesis called “Why people don’t spend time on their true passions?” According to the analysed survey responses of more than 200 people across the UK, most of the participants complained that work is rather the activity that they ‘have to do’ in order to be able to afford their lifestyle and then only to enjoy something that they love. Moreover, working/studying activity demonstrated quite a high level of boredom and less than average level of everyday happiness.
One of the powerful concepts that might help to invent a better future where individuals are supported to do more of what they want, I believe is the idea to implement Universal Basic Income policy – or “paying people for being alive”. It is certain that UBI is not an easy concept to implement and there are a few serious challenges that must be taken in mind when designing the implementation process. For example, it is important to create proper ways of inclusion for vulnerable and ‘hard-to-reach’ social groups such as the homeless, disabled people and immigrants. It might be that it is not the best idea to simply give the money to the disadvantaged drug addicts or alcohol dependent homeless because they may not value these benefits and spend their money to harm their lives even more. However, to compliment UBI for vulnerable citizens with proper advisory help (such as connecting with professionals who will equip them with information about a wide range of services that are available community or assist with the best ways to manage the budget)might be a sustainable forward-thinking direction for policy makers.
Even though UBI has not a certain reputation yet, there are a few reasons why it makes a lot of sense to continue piloting this concept in societies. First of all, UBI has the potential to resolve the dilemma between fighting unemployment and striving against poverty. Secondly, UBI could also be a catalyst for a generation of entrepreneurs – becoming not only a backstop for bad jobs, but the material condition for human fulfillment. Finally, looking at the forecast of futurologists it is very likely that by 2047 the planet is going to face “jobless future” where about 50 percent of employees would not be needed due to rapidly improving robotics and artificial intelligence industries.
It might be that all these future challenges have been exaggerated and the whole idea to change the labor market in a way that more people will have a chance to do what they want might sound like a utopia. One of the cynical views on implementing UBI is that people will regress by passing their time in pleasant leisure activities rather than improving their skills and talents. At the moment it looks like instead of spending time in passionate activities or living up their potential, most people are working in a desperate attempt to cling to their jobs because they need to support themselves and their families with basic needs. However, more and more people are trying out an uncertain freelancing journey, part-time and multiple jobs to brighten their future. Therefore, testing and developing UBI seems to be a promising path to a changing economic culture that might help both to support plenty of talents constrained by the present work-money system and to possibly lift some people up out of poverty and develop healthier local communities.
Founder of the happiness at work project ‘Sonas’.