Is Universal Basic Income Feasible Amidst AI Job Displacement?

In 2020, Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang proposed the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a potential solution to job displacement caused by artificial intelligence. While his suggestion garnered mixed responses, it brought attention to the impending threat of technological advancements to the workforce. Now, with the growing prevalence of AI, the question arises: is UBI a fiscal fantasy or a necessary response to the rise of automation?

A recent poll indicates that a majority of respondents, particularly Democrats and GenZers, are in favor of UBI. However, implementing such a program on a national scale poses significant challenges. The closest comparison we have is Social Security, an existing governmental program that is currently facing financial strains. The report states that the Medicare Trust Fund is projected to become insolvent by 2031, followed by the Social Security Trust Fund in 2033. To address these issues, Congress must take action to preserve full benefits for recipients.

Considering the mounting national debt and the historical difficulty of achieving budget surpluses, funding a UBI program would be a considerable expense for the government. An estimate suggests that following Yang’s vision on a national level would require an additional $3.132 trillion, making it a challenging proposition unless significant budgetary changes are made.

However, there is hope. AI has the potential to create new job opportunities and contribute to the global economy. According to a PwC report, AI could add an average of 14% to 16% to the global economy, equivalent to a $15.7 trillion contribution. This implies that the revenue generated from AI advancements could potentially fund a UBI program similar to what Yang proposed.

Regulation will play a crucial role in ensuring the responsible integration of AI without stifling innovation. As policymakers grapple with the complexity of this technology, they are also exploring ways to address job displacement and support the upskilling of individuals. While the path forward is uncertain, the ongoing discussions and regulatory efforts demonstrate an understanding of the challenges at hand.

In conclusion, the feasibility of UBI in the face of AI job displacement remains uncertain. The potential benefits and challenges must be carefully considered, taking into account fiscal responsibility and the need for comprehensive regulation. As technology continues to advance, it is crucial for policymakers to strike a balance that allows for innovation while ensuring the welfare of workers in an evolving job market.


1. What is Universal Basic Income (UBI)?

Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a system in which every individual within a society is guaranteed a certain amount of income, regardless of their employment status. It is intended to provide a basic level of financial security to all citizens.

2. What are the potential benefits of UBI?

Proponents of UBI argue that it can alleviate poverty, reduce income inequality, and provide a safety net for individuals in an increasingly automated workforce. It can also empower individuals to pursue further education, start businesses, or engage in creative endeavors.

3. How would UBI be funded?

There are various proposed funding mechanisms for UBI, such as implementing a value-added tax (VAT), redirecting existing welfare programs, or using revenue generated from economic growth and AI advancements.

4. What challenges exist in implementing UBI?

One of the main challenges is the fiscal feasibility of implementing UBI on a national scale. Funding a UBI program requires significant financial resources and careful budgeting. Additionally, determining the appropriate amount of income and eligibility criteria raises questions about equity and sustainability.