In Brief
  • A Finnish businessman and economist has proposed universal basic income as a means to combat the displacement of workers by automation.
  • With more jobs going to robots, a basic income can ensure worker survival in a more computerized economy.

The Creeping Quandary of Automation

Automation is becoming more prominent as of late with robots and computers taking over jobs ranging from clerical jobs to manufacturing jobs. While it has certainly helped humanity increase its production capabilities, it also runs the risk of replacing human labor. In fact, a 2013 study conducted by the Oxford University estimates that 47 percent of all US employment is at risk of “computerization.” With this increasing worry of job security, a banker proposes a solution to this problem.

 Björn Wahlroos Credit: Yle
Björn Wahlroos Credit: Yle

Björn Wahlroos, a Finnish business guru currently holds the chairman of the board of multiple companies including the Swedish-owned Nordea Bank AB, the Finnish financial company Sampo Group and the Finnish forest industry company UPM-Kymmene Corporation. His solution is to introduce a universal basic income.

Soften The Blow

He argues that the increasing automation of jobs will lead to massive unemployment in middle income industrial jobs. This displacement of human labor would force these blue collar workers to make two choices, which is either to accept low wage jobs or become unemployed. He says during his interview with Yle’s show Ykkösaamu that a basic income would solve this, “We have to be careful that a new proletariat isn’t born. The solution is to introduce a universal basic income, with everyone free to do work to supplement it.”

He proposes that a basic income could replace Finland’s already existing state assistance for its citizens. He has been a staunch proponent of this since 2001.

Next year, Finland will give some of its citizens a Universal Basic Income to test whether it could solve poverty while increasing employment. Time will tell if Wahlroos is right.