After meeting someone, ‘what do you do?’ is one of the first questions we ask and the government wants to opt out of the EU Working Time Directive, which limits work to 48 hours-a-week. Over a third of people in the UK see their jobs as completely meaningless and companies are looking at ways to automate their workforce in the coming years. Does this mean we won’t have to work anymore?
In the UK, a recent report by economists Stewart Lansley and Howard Reed said that the cost of switching to a Universal Basic Income in Britain would be £28bn. This figure ‘is less than the aggregate cuts to welfare since 2010’ and the report’s authors said: ‘These reforms offer a significant modification of the existing system of social security – creating one more suited to the new risks of insecurity, precarity and work-based poverty of the 21st century.’ So would that mean we would work less and be happier? ‘[We should] start thinking seriously about decoupling income from wages so that everyone in society can participate and contribute to social life without the fear of stigma and destitution that often comes with unemployment,’ says Kyle Lewis. He suggests moving on from current ‘solutions’ like Universal Credit and the Job Centre, and looking towards universal basic income as a right ‘It could be introduced incrementally over time – starting with modest rates and gradually amounting to something like a living wage,’ he says. ‘It would represent a progressive redistribution of wealth from the 1% (and the 0.1%), who have grown incredibly rich over the past thirty years, to the rest of society, who have paid for this inequality over the decade of austerity.’
But this is a contentious issue. Working is said to give people purpose, with Evelyn Cotter, Founder of SEVEN Career Coaching saying:<strong> ‘Most people need to feel like they are contributing, adding value, making an impact in ways that are seen or felt to feel good about themselves and progress. That is not going to change, that’s the human spirit’. She continues: ‘It’s healthy to have a work ethic because what you put in, you get out, which doesn’t mean needing to slog, but having passion for what you do, fully showing up for your work because it aligns with your values and enjoying contributing’</strong>. Plus, even UBI advocates admit it would not be a catch-all solution. Critics say inflation would be triggered because of increased income, prices would go up, the number of people seeking work would fall and there’s the question of who would pay for it. Would companies chip in to provide the income that people need once it isn’t tied to work?