Basic income in the new era of digitalised work

On 27, 28 and 29 June, the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) together with the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) hosted a conference on “Shaping the new world of work: the impacts of digitalisation and robotisation”, to discuss how the world and nature of work and employment is being changed by the digital revolution. SOLIDAR attended the conference and, participated in Panel 16 on Basic Income.

SOLIDAR and its members have been implementing Social Progress Watch for three years now, analysing the impact of EU policies at Member States level. The results from the 2015 report show worrying trends:

  • More and more people are without adequate social protection or in precarious working conditions, including new forms of self-employment.
  • The socio-economic divergences between regions within the European Union, especially between North and South are increasing.
  • The EU is far from reaching the poverty reduction and employment targets it has set itself in the EU2020 Strategy nor the Sustainable Development Goals all EU Member States signed up to at the end of last year.

One element repeatedly emerges from SOLIDAR’s Social Progress Watch: during the financial and economic crisis, Europe lost sight of fiscal and financial consolidation, ignoring the clear need for social consolidation and thereby disregarding the actual needs of Europe’s citizens, young people.

SOLIDAR wants to see economic and social policy reforms at EU and national level that lead to real upward social convergence and that are supportive of a socially inclusive Europe, providing economic security for all, fighting poverty, inequality and discrimination, and promoting equal opportunities.
Upward social convergence will not happen on its own, without successfully addressing these inequalities. Therefore SOLIDAR has embraced the concept of social safeguards.

A proposal for a basic income has to be an integral part of attempts at ‘making work pay’, in order to avoid making basic income an instrument that socialises externalities created by employers. Basic income has to go hand-in-hand with these social safeguards that are in our mind related to the ILO recommendation 202:

  • Universal access to a nationally defined set of goods and services, constituting essential health care, including maternity care, which meets the criteria of availability, accessibility, acceptability and quality.
  • Combating child poverty. Basic income security for children, at least at a nationally defined minimum level, providing access to nutrition, education, care and any other necessary goods and services.
  • Minimum income and minimum wage. Basic income security, at least at a nationally defined minimum level, for persons of active age who are unable to earn sufficient income, in particular in cases of sickness, unemployment, maternity and disability.
  • Adequate pension. Basic income security, at least at a nationally defined minimum level, for older persons.

To conclude, basic income has the potential to address new social risks in providing support for ‘the precariat’, namely providing a safety‚Äźnet for those who experience frequent spells of unemployment in current precarious labour markets.