A plan has been announced in England to test the idea of using a universal basic income (UBI). The privately funded trial would allow for up to 30 people to receive an unconditional income payment of £1,600 (€1,854) a month.
The scheme, which is the first of its kind in England, would provide the funds to residents in East Finchley, north London, and central Jarrow, northeast England each month for 2 years, while researchers monitor how the funds affect the recipients' mental state and work ethic.
The UBI test has been organized by Autonomy, a progressive think tank, which will use private donors to fund the £1.6 million (€1.85 million) plan.
The scheme is not organized by or affiliated with the British government and will not be paid for by British taxpayers.
"Our society is going to require some form of basic income in the coming years, given the tumult of climate change, tech disruption, and industrial transition that lies ahead," said Autonomy's Director of Research, Will Stronge.
"This is why building the evidence base and public engagement now is so important, so the ground is well prepared for national implementation," he added.
Stronge explained that researchers are eager to see the effect the payments will have on people's physical and mental health and also on their desire and willingness to continue working.
Participants in the trial will be allowed to continue working to earn their own salary if they choose and will still receive the payments in addition to any income from employers.
"All the evidence shows that UBI would directly alleviate poverty and boost millions of people's well-being: the potential benefits are just too large to ignore," Stronge concluded.
The UBI trial in England is not the first of its kind, with others having been piloted in other parts of Europe. A government-supported initiative in Finland provided 2,000 working-age but unemployed citizens with a modest €560 a month in January 2017.
Another supporter of UBI is U.S. billionaire Elon Musk who also thinks the plan could be an appropriate response to the inevitable infringement of artificial intelligence in the workplace and its effects on the workforce.
"UBI means that unemployed people will be paid across the globe," Musk said during a 2017 tech summit in Dubai.
"Machines, robots are taking over. There will be fewer and fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better," Musk concluded.
Meanwhile, many critics argue that the idea of UBI is too expensive to implement nationally and would reduce work ethic, undermine productivity, take important resources away from government priorities, and would make citizens even more dependent on the state for support.
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