One of the big policy discussions at the moment is whether countries should adopt a universal basic income in response the changing nature of work. A universal basic income is income unconditionally granted to all on an individual basis. The idea of a universal basic income is not new with proposals in the 1970s but has gained a renaissance due to projections that automation will render large segments of the population unemployed. A number of countries are commencing trials and even the Productivity Commission has suggested the idea warrants evaluation in light of digital disruption.
There are, however, concerns about the cost of such a scheme, whether it would be better to focus on the distribution of employment and the risk that it might be used to slash the welfare state or end up as some form of wage subsidy. The ideological diversity of its proponents and opponents also suggest there would not be agreement on its purpose or implementation. To some, it is a practical response to address polarisation in the labour market and inequality, to others it is the means to a post-work utopia.
Ben Spies Butcher – Senior Lecturer, Macquarie University
Peter Whiteford – Professor, ANU Crawford School of Public Policy
Louise Tarrant - former National Secretary of United Voice union