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Should we pay everyone £1,000 a month? The case for Universal Basic Income as robots take over jobs

As the march of the robots continues in the workplace and economic inequality rises, music ­legend Brian Eno sees an ­obvious solution.
The ambient pioneer and former Roxy Music star is one of many big names backing calls to introduce Universal Basic Income.
Under the scheme, ­everyone would get a set amount of cash every month.
Trials have been done in ­several countries and a test run is now planned in Scotland.
UBI is now the focus of a book, It’s Basic Income, out this week, and other famous fans include Tesla and PayPal founder Elon Musk , Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson and Facebook supremo Mark Zuckerberg.
Speaking exclusively to the Sunday People, Brian said: “The concept came to my ­attention a couple of ­decades ago. I remember thinking it wouldn’t work.
"But when I explored it, I realised there was potential. I had three things kind of like the UBI. I came from a poor background but had a free education.
“Then I went to a good art school, then there was the dole. All those things gave me a chance to explore my creativity, think about things properly.
“That’s what Universal Basic Income does. It frees people.”
Critics of the scheme believe it would discourage people from seeking jobs. But Brian and other backers say it will nurture creativity and lead to people starting their own businesses.
The 69-year-old said: “The traditional critique of it is to say it will encourage people not to work.
"I think you will probably see a month or so after its introduction where that does happen among a certain percentage of people.
"A pretty chaotic time. But there’s only so long ­people will sit there and watch TV.
“One of the things we’ve seen where UBI has been trialled is community engagement. People start opening clubs, launching small businesses. They start talking to each other and getting involved in political debates.”
Many politicians and business leaders have expressed interest. Last month Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell confirmed Labour had set up a working group to explore UBI. In 2016, Green MP Caroline Lucas put down an Early Day Motion ­supporting the scheme, citing zero-hours contracts and the rise of the gig economy. It attracted cross-party support.
Brian says in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, and with the changing face of work, UBI is an idea whose time has come.
He said: “We’ve had a version of capitalism for the last 40 years that has been great at making even more money for the rich.
“The people at the bottom are getting worse off as inequality widens. It doesn’t have to be that way. UBI means money would be divided in a different way. A fairer way.”
Some great business minds agree. Elon Musk, 46, ­recently said: “We’ll end up ­doing UBI. It’s going to be necessary.
“There will be fewer jobs that a robot cannot do better.”
Sir Richard, 67, wrote recently: “Everybody should have the chance to work and thrive. Most countries can afford to make sure everybody has basic needs covered.”
And Zuckerberg, 33, said last year: “We should explore ideas like UBI to give ­everyone a cushion to try new things.”
A survey last year showed half of Brits would back UBI. And following trials in Finland, the Netherlands and Canada, the Scottish government is preparing pilot schemes in Glasgow, Fife and Edinburgh. Local councils have until later this month to make bids.
Brian added: “With UBI we are not talking about giving people enormous sums of money. This is not cash to go on holidays or buy big houses. People would get just enough to get by.
“That takes a lot of pressure off. There are people who would love the chance to launch a business but they feel like they can’t give up their jobs to do it.
“I think we would see so much creativity unleashed. It would liberate people to come up with new ideas. We would get everyone involved, working and thinking and trying new ideas.
And Zuckerberg, 33, said last year: “We should explore ideas like UBI to give ­everyone a cushion to try new things.”
A survey last year showed half of Brits would back UBI. And following trials in Finland, the Netherlands and Canada, the Scottish government is preparing pilot schemes in Glasgow, Fife and Edinburgh. Local councils have until later this month to make bids.
Brian added: “With UBI we are not talking about giving people enormous sums of money. This is not cash to go on holidays or buy big houses. People would get just enough to get by.
“That takes a lot of pressure off. There are people who would love the chance to launch a business but they feel like they can’t give up their jobs to do it.
“I think we would see so much creativity unleashed. It would liberate people to come up with new ideas. We would get everyone involved, working and thinking and trying new ideas.

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