In Brief
  • India's chief economic advisor, Arvind Subramanian, says a universal basic income is being considered by the government and will be researched in an upcoming survey.
  • Basic incomes could lift millions out of poverty and protect people economically from robots and AI that will replace their jobs.

It’s only a matter of time before robots and AI dominate our workplaces and replace the need for human laborers. That’s partly why some futurists and economists argue for a basic income — guaranteed government-provided money to support your expenses and help stimulate the consumer market.

The chief economic advisor to the Indian government, Arvind Subramanian, has now voiced support for a universal basic income (UBI) to end poverty.

“People are dragged into poverty due to droughts, declining agriculture opportunities, disease, and so on,” he told a student at a university forum, according to The Times of India. “So the safety net provided by the government should be quite wide, and that is why this [basic income] has some merit.”

Subramanian said India’s next Economic Survey, a yearly report presented to parliament, will consider a UBI. And UNICEF has already tested basic income grants in impoverished Indian villages. A 12-year basic income trial in Kenya that gives people $0.75 a day is also underway.

Arvind Subramanian and Bill Gates meet in December 2015. Image Credit: Twitter
Arvind Subramanian and Bill Gates meet in December 2015. Image: Twitter / @arvindsubraman

A UBI in India would involve the government depositing a fixed sum between Rs 10,000 ($150) or Rs 15,000 ($225) a year in people’s accounts to reduce poverty, according to The Times of India.

India has the second largest population on the globe but a low median income of $900 a year. The median income in the U.S. is $52,000 and in China it’s $12,500. So implementing a basic income in India is much less costly than many countries.

But Subramanian warned a basic income in India remains hypothetical.

“Both in terms of politics and economic[s] there is a whole range of very important things we have to look into, and are going to look at, very carefully,” Subramanian said, according to the Economic Times.