Universal basic income (UBI) is again a topical issue in the context of the structural transformation of the economy. The Digital economy is characterized by accelerated automation and robotization. Quite a number of economists are concerned about a net loss of jobs. In short: a rise in unemployment. Can UBI be considered an adequate response to such a scenario?

The term "universal basic income" is by no means used uniformly. If you look closer, each proponent of UBI has his/her own idea about the objectives and funding of UBI. Let us take a look at the various goals its different proponents pursue with UBI. I have, of course, mentioned the avoidance of mass unemployment already.

  • Fight against poverty, the removal of the social stigma of receiving social benefits (because everyone gets these benefits).
  • Others consider it a step towards a more modern welfare state. Namely, a merging of the various welfare state benefits (unemployment benefit, disability benefit, etc.) into a single payment. This could be associated with a significant reduction in bureaucracy.
  • Other advocates of UBI emphasize that the aim is to lay the foundation for a completely new economic and social order. This would remove the necessity to do gainful employment for the mere purpose of securing one's livelihood.
  • UBI allows for vocational (re)orientation and further training, while enjoying financial security.

The following are some prominent advocates of the BGE: The investor Frank Thelen, the philosopher and publicist Richard David Precht, founder of dm-retail chain Götz Werner, the German Telekom boss Timotheus Höttges.

The critics include: Nobel Prize winner in economics Paul Romer rejects it; the two Nobel Prize winners in economics Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee are critical of applying UBI in developed countries; the critics also include Kevin Scott (CTO of Microsoft, author of "Reprogramming the American Dream").

The economists Duflo, Banerjee and Romer instead of UBI suggest that labour should be subsidized. I agree with that. Furthermore, it should be critically noted that without massive investments in education and equal opportunities, the UBI runs the risk of creating a two-tier society (UBI becomes a consolation prize); and some of the discussed funding models disadvantage the socially weak (e.g the UBI scheme suggested by Goetz Werner: increase in value-added tax).


The author is a manager in the software industry with international expertise: Authorized officer at one of the large consulting firms - Responsible for setting up an IT development center at the Bangalore offshore location - Director M&A at a software company in Berlin.