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England to trial £1,600 Universal Basic Income Scheme

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Would it result in more low-income workers leaving the workforce?  

In a groundbreaking move, England is set to conduct its first-ever trial of universal basic income, with 30 individuals being offered £1,600 per month without any work obligations. The aim of the trial is to assess the impact of providing a standard income on people’s lives. 

The pilot project, proposed by the think tank Autonomy, will span a period of two years and select participants from Jarrow, a town in northeast England, as well as East Finchley in London. The objective is to determine whether this scheme effectively addresses inequality and poverty. 

If the trial proves successful, there is potential for the government to adopt universal basic income, a system in which all individuals in society receive the same salary regardless of their means or abilities. 

 Universal basic income in the age of AI 

The concept of universal basic income has gained significant attention recently due to the integration and advancements of AI in the workforce, which has raised concerns about widespread job displacement across various sectors. 

Earlier this year, a report by Goldman Sachs indicated that AI could potentially replace 300 million full-time jobs. Universal basic income has been proposed as a potential solution to cope with high unemployment rates resulting from the replacement of jobs by AI. 

Nevertheless, critics argue that the implementation of universal basic income would impose a substantial financial burden on the government and divert funds from other essential public services. 

 Advantages and Disadvantages of Universal Basic Income 

Supporters of universal basic income highlight its potential to empower workers by allowing them to reject unsuitable jobs, advocate for better working conditions, and pursue activities that genuinely interest them. Social researcher Dr David Frayne, in a note on the Autonomy website, asserts that UBI could rectify the current situation where social inclusion hinges on one’s ability to secure employment. He states, “Basic Income could solve this problem by giving people the resources to undertake productive activities for themselves and for each other if they so choose. The hope is that, with the benefit of time and a guaranteed income, people would be able to develop a range of interests and capacities outside employment. You can finally do the thing you actually want to do.” 

However, opponents argue that universal basic income would place a considerable strain on government finances and could result in reduced funding for vital public services. 

The upcoming trial in England will provide valuable insights into the potential benefits and challenges associated with universal basic income, offering an opportunity to evaluate its effectiveness in addressing societal inequalities and shaping the future of work. 

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