On the First of May – traditionally the festival of Spring, new life, and hope – Unconditional Basic Income Europe (UBIE) joins the world celebrating International Workers Day, established originally to mark working people’s fight to win back control over their own time.
Brussels, 1st May 2017. With pressure mounting on traditional paid work through neoliberal policies and automation, we see Unconditional Basic Income as the idea that will deliver new hope for people suffering from stressful working conditions, insufficient wages or meaningless jobs.
Today, many are working far too hard just for survival, often needing two or three jobs to get by, often loaded down by debt. Others are cut out of the labour market altogether and exist on debt, charity and/or welfare. Many waste their talents in meaningless ‘bullshit jobs’. This is damaging to everyone’s family and community life, physical and mental health.
“With basic income, every worker will have more options to say ‘No’ to work seen as senseless while being better able to do work seen as needed. We will have more ‘good work’ that is authentic,” says Ulrich Schachtschneider, sociologist from Oldenburg, Germany and board member of Unconditional Basic Income Europe.
Back in 1930, John Maynard Keynes predicted that his grandchildren would be working 15 hour weeks for their livelihoods. Today, when technology could make this a reality, most developed economies are heading towards longer working times and lower wages. Often workers’ organisations end up supporting these developments out of fear of being left without any income at all.
Despite the European Union’s 2020 goals, poverty is now on the rise again, and wealth inequality is now at its worst since the industrial revolution began. There are more jobs, but income growth has only been seen by the top 5% of wage-earners.
Basic income is therefore a necessary solution to start closing the inequality gap, to unlink survival from paid work. This would give working people control over their time, whether spent in paid jobs, in other socially useful work or in leisure activities.
On May Day, Unconditional Basic Income Europe calls on everyone to stand with all who struggle for shorter hours, better working conditions, higher pay and more meaningful work. Equally we stand with all who care unpaid for family and friends, our communities and our environment, all who work for a better society.