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Ahead of Labor Day on May 1, trade union leaders in Germany have said the concept of an unconditional basic income for all citizens has serious flaws. They said it would be the wrong answer to ongoing digitalization.
A growing number of policymakers and social scientists in Germany has been willing to weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of introducing an unconditional basic income (UBI) for all citizens.
Such a scheme would ensure that people get a fixed monthly amount of money to live on no matter whether they work or not. Current financial support such as unemployment benefits, welfare money or child allowance would no longer be paid.
The public debate about such a basic income has been gaining momentum as many workers fear their jobs will be lost as the digitization of the workplace and the increasing role of robots in the production process is no longer just a vision of the future.
Ahead of Labor Day, trade union leaders said Monday they did not approve of an unconditional basic income as an answer to potential job losses.
"It's no solution to shunt somebody aside with a standstill reward just because people cannot be offered any decent jobs anymore," the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), Reiner Hoffmann, said in a statement.
He said calls for a basic income were "a complete disorientation," adding that work was more than just a tool to earn a living. Hoffmann insisted that pursuing a job was crucial to structure people's everyday lives and ensure social cohesion.
The head of the powerful German union IG Metall, Jörg Hofmann, also spoke out against the idea of an unconditional basic income, saying that people were not happy sitting at home and doing nothing, or getting money for doing nothing.
Rough deal for workers?
Hofmann said the digitization process and the accompanying technological changes especially in the auto industry had to be shaped in such a way that employees did not fall by the wayside.
He added it was an open question whether digitalization would destroy more old jobs than it would create new jobs.
The president of the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW), Marcel Fratzscher, fears, though, that is exactly what may happen.
"Highly at risk are well-paying office and industry jobs," he told the Tagesspiegel newspaper on Monday, insisting that only a process of lifelong on-the-job qualification could cushion the impact of digitalization on the domestic labor market.
Fratzscher suggested putting aside some €20,000 ($24,200) for every working-age citizen to be spent on their training and qualification.
hg/tr (dpa, AFP)