Work, Technology, and Inequality

In Michael Weber & Michael Cholbi (eds.), The Future of Work, Technology, and Basic Income. London, UK: pp. 90-112 (2019)
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Recent technological developments in automation threaten to eliminate the jobs of millions of workers in the near future, raising worrisome questions about how to satisfy their welfare. One proposal for addressing this issue is to provide all citizens with a “universal basic income” (UBI) that ensures everyone with a social minimum. The aim is to give all individuals an unrestricted cash grant that provides them with an income that does not depend on status, wealth, or employment. The question this paper explores is whether UBI can replace work in the age of automation. Work has financial and non-pecuniary benefits that provide individuals with an income, as well as self-realization, self-respect, and community. While the provision of UBI will supplement the financial benefits of work, the question remains whether such a grant can replace these non-pecuniary benefits. The first section outlines the benefits and burdens of work. The second section considers the effects of technology on work in the context of automation. The third section examines the arguments for UBI that make it a philosophically attractive alternative to traditional welfare policies. Finally, the last section evaluates whether the benefits of UBI can replace the loss of work in terms of its non-pecuniary benefits.
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