Richard Branson says universal basic income 'important' as tech reduces jobs

By Ray Downs  |  Aug. 17, 2017 at 12:46 AM
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Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Billionaire Sir Richard Branson said in a blog post that universal basic income might be a valid method of dealing with the advent of technology reducing the overall number of jobs for workers.

"A lot of exciting new innovations are going to be created, which will generate a lot of opportunities and a lot of wealth, but there is a real danger it could also reduce the amount of jobs. This will make experimenting with ideas like basic income even more important in the years to come," he wrote.

Branson said he became enthused about the idea of UBI after attending a meeting with The Elders in Finland, which has begun an experimental program to test the viability of UBI. The program gives 560 euros per month to 2,000 unemployed Finns, who get the monthly cash sum regardless of whether they begin working or not. Branson said this could actually increase employment by encouraging recipients to work.

"A key point is that the money will be paid even if the people find work," Branson wrote. "The initiative aims to reduce unemployment and poverty while cutting red tape, allowing people to pursue the dignity and purpose of work without the fear of losing their benefits by taking a low-paid job."

Branson said UBI was discussed at The Elders meeting and that his takeaway was that the concept would "help people struggling just to survive and allow them to get on their feet, be entrepreneurial and be more creative."

Branson is just the latest billionaire to come out in favor of UBI.

In November, Tesla founder Elon Musk said he also believed automation will lead to fewer jobs and make UBI a necessary program.

"There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation," Musk told CNBC. "Yeah, I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen."

In May, while giving a commencement speech at Harvard, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he supported the idea because, like Branson, it cold encourage entrepreneurship.

"We should have a society that measures progress not by economic metrics like GDP but by how many of us have a role we find meaningful," he said. "We should explore ideas like universal basic income to give everyone a cushion to try new things."

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