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Lisa Machnig

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Are we on the way to a guaranteed basic income? On the end of work and the gift of time

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What's likely to happen as robots and artificial intelligence take over increasing numbers of jobs, presaging the end of work as we know it? Is a guaranteed monthly basic income for everyone – independent of each individual's economic circumstances and with nothing asked in return for the payment – an economically feasible and at the same time fair option for the society of the future? And what responsibilities does the world of business have in the area?

Grundeinkommen-EN

Opinions on the issue are as variegated as the many faces of our society: leading figures in the tech sector, including such people as Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, believe that we will all receive a basic income in the future. In an interview with ZDF Zoom, Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Höttges assesses the option as "a fair new development to the concept of the welfare state. And the vision is already a reality in one country: Finland, which has been trialing the concept of a universal basic income as part of a pilot project since January. The concept is also set to be tested out in Schleswig-Holstein: the coalition deal that allowed the formation of a new government in the Bundesland includes a provision to create a future lab in which the idea of a basic income will be discussed.

And as a result, careers like that followed by Kurt Koch will finally become obsolete. He has been working at Deutsche Telekom helping out customers for half a century now and experienced technological change firsthand. His professional trajectory, which was once upon a time a standard career path in many industries, and has provided many with a secure livelihood, is almost unimaginable as an option for people now starting out on their professional careers.

If everyone received a basic income, people could choose to live without working. But would such a lifestyle be desirable? "We need to make a contribution to our society and to give our lives meaning," sociologist and economist Jeremy Rifkin tells us in an interview. "We won't get our guaranteed income simply so that we can sit about and passively consume stuff."

Or will we? We asked our followers on Instagram: "Would you keep on working if you were to receive a basic monthly income"? 82 percent of the 400 participants of the poll would do so. It's not a matter of work disappearing completely, Benedictine Abbot, Notker Wolf OSB reminds us. "Humankind tends to be somewhat lazy," he cautions in to bear in mind in our video interview, "but if you choose to freewheel, then you're going to have to make do with less."

But what do you think? Will people just become lazy when they start getting money without having to do anything for it? Or are they more likely to use the gift of free time meaningfully?

Find out more and contribute to the debate at www.telekom.com/digital-responsibility.

See more views on the guaranteed basic income in our video interviews:

Joe Huston, Chief Financial Officer of GiveDirectly: 

"The idea that you can help people by simply giving money away suggests that there may be new, simpler ways of approaching some of these problems by simply redistributing money from the well-off to the needy."

Guy Standing, Professor of Development Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), the University of London:

"One reason for supporting a basic income is that it would encourage more freedom. If I have the security of a guaranteed basic income, then I have more freedom."

Benedictine Notker Wolf OSB, PhD:

"There are professions that simply cannot be digitized. I tend to think of the caring sector, for example. You need people with empathy for that kind of work. If digitization means that we will have more time for humanity, then I'm all for it.

Image Future Work

On the way to a guaranteed basic income?

Will people just become lazy when they start getting money without having to do anything for it?

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