Agora: Basic Income, will it ever happen?

6 May 2019

14:00-15:15 | Sax Room -


Chris Burns

Indepedent Media


Guy Standing

Basic Income Earth Network

Professional Research Associate at SOAS University of London and founder member and honorary co-president of the Basic Income Earth Network


The interest in the two century-old idea of an unconditional cash payment to all citizens – or, in other words: the universal basic income (UBI) – has grown over the last two decades and its pilot programmes attracted recently a lot of interest. Two years ago, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected an initiative to implement it. On the other hand, Finland started a trial in January 2017 for a limited number of people but already announced that the experiment will end in December this year.

Apparently, the trial is not finished because of failure but because the Helsinki government has other priorities. But UBI is not dead in the water yet: other governments and local authorities – including some in Scotland – are launching or about to launch pilot projects to see if it’s worth implementing it.

Is UBI the silver bullet to address poverty, unemployment and the threat of artificial intelligence or automation at the workplace? Will people really invest this money and their time in education and training? Or – as its opponents say – will it be highly expensive, morally corrosive,simply removing the incentives to go and look for work? Even if the final, definitive answer on the viability of the universal basic income might be years away, the European Business Summit will look at the pros and cons of this concept.