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Universal Basic Income: The Idea

Manak Suri

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Mankind has come so far because of the ability to adapt. If you were to randomly pick out any point of time in mankind’s history, you would find certain existing threats or those looming large over certain segments of people or a large collection of them. From hunting animals for food for survival to protecting themselves from wars, plagues and famine; for humankind, each step was daunting till it had been conquered. Many of these threats they would brave, while against many others a good chunk of people died trying, leaving behind the ones who were wiser after what they had overcome. In 2017, we are a long long way ahead, still not without problems of our own. One of the gravest, if not the gravest of these problems that is ready for impact in the not so distant future is automation. Automation, with its projected path for replacing much of the work currently done by humans, has the potential to cause a huge disruption in the way we live our life, the way that nearly everyone alive today is accustomed to living. The great challenge that lies ahead of us in the wake of such retrenchment across the world is how to ensure that people are still able to make/earn a living after so much of what they did is taken up by machines. Education and training among others are often touted as the best possible solutions to help make a person stay relevant, but as automation alters the basic structure on which our work life is built, the decades-old idea of Universal Basic Income or UBI has started to once again gain relevance, provoke debates and be looked at as a serious option to catapult the human race into what could possibly be a new social structure.

What is Basic Income or Universal Basic Income?

In case you haven’t been following the idea, the concept behind UBI is to provide every citizen with a fixed amount of money periodically so that they can cover their basic subsistence needs without having to worry about ever living in a state of poverty. The same amount will be received by every individual (with possibly additional allowances for families and children) regardless of whether they are working or how much they are earning from their work. You would not be crazy to point out that the idea behind UBI sounds far too utopian to be true, which is exactly what most critics of the idea have held against it. In addition to that, once you start trying to figure the idea out, you are bound to face really important questions about the scheme. How will the payments to entire populations be financed? Will it exist alongside or replace existing welfare programs in order for its effective implementation? How will the minimum amount be decided? Under what criteria will families, children and the elderly be accommodated under the program if implemented? These are among other questions that merely touch the tip of the iceberg. Without even getting into further details and problems associated with it, UBI may look like an attempt to reach the moon with only a ladder at your disposal.

However, somewhere along the road to figuring out the most obvious intricacies associated with a hugely ambitious and optimistic idea as universal basic income, it is not hard to see why its successful implementation (if it ever happens on a significantly large scale) would be such a game changer for humanity. Besides being a possible solution amid our motivated search to the threats posed by automation, many supporters of UBI also see it as one of the best ways, if not the best way, to create a more advanced as well as equal society. Imagine a world which provides you with sufficient time and room to be able to do what you want to do, to not be tied to your work to be able to afford/make the life that you not only need but the life that you want for yourself. Now imagine if everyone was a part of such a world, that anyone is able to make more time to spend with their family, or to invest in themselves, or to add value to the said world in a manner in which they feel they are most capable, without having to worry about having a meal on their table two times a day.

Where are we with Universal Basic Income?

Yes, all of this does sound maybe too good to be true, especially if this is the first time you are reading about it, but that does not mean it’s not achievable. As a matter of fact, its viability is the biggest question that remains in the open. So, what does the situation look like right now? You’d be surprised to know that variants of the scheme are being experimented across the world on targeted populations in various countries, more recently in countries such as Canada and Finland. More importantly, many of these have shown encouraging results, dousing some of the arguments against the scheme by its critics.

The term Basic Income, or Universal Basic Income is relatively new, but the idea behind it is decades old, or perhaps even older than a century. However, the reasons due to which it originally came about is not the main reason why it has become ever so relevant today. Humanity’s desire to ensure a more equitable distribution of resources has seen its fair share of ups and downs, some too important to forget, but it’s the dawn of automation that the idea of UBI, dismissed countless times over the years due to the intricacies surrounding it that makes it ‘basic’, has come back into the fold, this time with the support of some of the world’s most influential figures. That makes it impossible to just rule it out

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A student of economics with a keen eye for developments in the geopolitical sphere, Manak is a curious individual with a penchant for writing about anything that makes him ponder long enough.

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Imagine A Mall Without Any Stores: Will Online Shopping Make Retail Units Obsolete?

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The number of people who shop online is increasing year on year. In 2016, shoppers made 51 percent of purchases online, and this is a trend that has been developing and gathering speed over the course of the last five years. With Internet shopping on the rise, is it unquestionable to think of a mall without any stores? In years to come, will the idea of going shopping with friends or indulging in retail therapy involve gathering around a screen or discussing purchases and swapping photos on an instant messaging group?

The rise of Internet shopping

Research suggests that the popularity of online shopping is growing all the time. There are more sites out there, there’s more choice, and people are increasingly reliant on convenient ways of shopping. While there’s still a strong case for physical stores, especially during peak periods, like the holidays, there’s no getting away from the fact that more people are choosing to use the Internet rather than visiting a store. Trends show that it’s also not just a case of shopping on your favourite store’s website. Online-only shops are also beginning to dominate the market. According to data from the Office for National Statistics in the UK, businesses like Amazon and Asos are building their client base on a daily basis. In 2015, these online-only stores took almost 50 pence out of every pound spent online. This is a significant increase from 41 pence in 2014.

Online shopping is more accessible than ever before, and it’s available 24-hours a day, almost anywhere imaginable. In 2017, 96 percent of Americans shopped online. Although most purchases are still made offline, the gap between the web and physical stores is closing all the time.

What’s so good about online shopping?

Online shopping offers a range of benefits for consumers, especially those who don’t have the time or energy to hit the shops. With an Internet connection, you can browse, choose an item and pay in a matter of seconds. Time is of the essence for many shoppers. Although some enjoy moseying around the stores and trying things on, shopping is not everyone’s idea of fun, and online shopping can make the experience much less stressful and time-consuming. You can order what you want or need at the tap of a button from anywhere you like. You can shop in bed, on the train or while you’re sipping a cool drink on vacation. There are virtually no limits when it comes to online shopping due to advances in connectivity and the widespread availability of wifi networks and 4G. The Internet also makes shopping accessible to everyone. If you struggle to get out and about, you have health issues, or you don’t drive, getting the items you want doesn’t have to be a military operation. You no longer have to worry about getting public transport or asking for lifts. You can shop from the comfort of your own sofa.

Internet shopping is not just advantageous because it saves time and effort. You can also access a much wider range of goods online, and the web can also open you up to new shopping experiences. If you’ve ever used auction sites, for example, you may understand the thrill of winning the contest and securing a product at a bargain price. Online shopping gives you the chance to switch up the way you shop and find out more about different techniques and experiences offered by retailers. The rise in popularity of online shopping has also prompted retailers to work on their USP. There’s a huge amount of competition out there, and this benefits the customer. Companies are building on existing ideas and models to make them better. If you’re looking for an example, check out this article entitled Here’s How DealDash Is Revolutionizing The Online Auction Industry, and take note of the differences between these auctions and traditional pay to enter auctions. As a consumer, competition brings new opportunities and enhanced experiences, which you can’t enjoy when you trawl stores at a mall. There’s also the small matter of money. When you go shopping, it’s not always possible to see how much the items you want cost at different stores. With online shopping, you can compare prices in seconds. This means that it’s easier than ever to get more for your money.

Another advantage of online shopping is the ability to learn about products before you buy. In a store, you’re probably not going to have a load of reviews posted on the shelf below a TV, a laptop or a garden furniture set. If you’re online, you can read independent reviews and customer comments before you make a decision.

Are there any downsides?

Nothing is perfect, and if you surveyed a group of people about their online shopping experiences, there are bounds to be gripes and complaints in there somewhere. Perhaps the most significant difference between Internet shopping and traditional shopping is the inability to enjoy the experience of going into a shop, interacting with assistants, trying the products for size and taking advantage of that personal touch. The online experience is very different. It’s faster, it’s more clinical, and there’s always an element of risk involved. Some stores offer free returns to eliminate anxiety about what happens if a product isn’t suitable, but this isn’t a universal perk. There’s also a chance that you’ll end up receiving something that looks completely different to the product you thought you’d ordered. We’ve all seen hilarious examples of online shopping gone wrong in the papers, but this is the risk you run when you haven’t got a product in front of your very eyes.

flickr/usmarshalls

Although we laud online shopping for its convenience and speed, it can still be a more time-consuming process than going into a shop. If you want something straight away, buying in-store is almost always the best option. Even if same-day delivery is available, this is likely to come at a cost, and you’ll still have to wait hours rather than seconds or minutes.

So what does the future hold for the high street?

If you listen to broadcasts or read the news, it’s not uncommon for high street giants to report losses. The trouble is that it’s hard to ascertain the causes of slow sales. In the UK, some retail magnates are struggling, but is this purely the result of rising online retailers? It’s unlikely that the popularity of online shopping is the sole cause, especially as many of the companies that are hitting the headlines have a strong online presence. There are many factors at work, including political change and uncertainty, and some businesses are going through a period of adjustment to try and cater to new consumer trends.

The key to surviving in any business is being able to adapt to a changing environment. Time brings change, and in this case, retailers who are used to packed shop floors need to adjust to new ways of shopping. Many are stepping up their online game to attract new customers, but it also makes sense to try and make traditional forms of shopping more appealing. The aim is to enhance the experience so that customers enjoy the time they spend in-store. If they have fun, they’re impressed with the service and the shop looks the part, this is going to make them want to return and also encourage them to recommend that store to others. From installing DJs in a trendy clothing store on a Saturday afternoon to providing interactive displays featuring products on sale in a tech store, there’s a lot to be said for actually going into a shop still.

What factors affect your decisions?

When you think about shopping, what factors influence the decisions you make and ultimately, make the difference between shopping online or visiting a store? Do you prefer the personalised experience on offer in a shop or do you enjoy the speed and convenience of shopping from your living room? Sometimes, the type of products you buy makes a difference. You may feel much more comfortable ordering books, games or films online than you would a wedding dress, a state of the art TV or a new pair of shoes, for example. There’s also the question of time. If you’ve got spare time, perhaps you’d like to spend it perusing the shelves. If, on the other hand, you’re in a mad rush, you probably don’t want to contend with traffic, finding a parking space and waiting in line for the fitting room. There’s also the issue of accessibility. If you can walk to a store in five minutes, this is going to save you more time than it would to place an order and then wait for delivery. However, if you don’t drive, you work shifts, or you don’t live near a shopping centre, online shopping is a much more attractive proposition. Everyone is different, and there’s no right or wrong answer. Choose how to shop based on what you need, how much time you have and what kind of experience you’re looking for.

There’s no doubt that the Internet has changed the way we shop. With online shopping on the rise, it may seem likely that retail stores are doomed, but there’s every chance that many will adapt and adjust effectively. We may be fans of online shopping, but don’t write off your favourite high street stores just yet.

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Culture and Lifestyle

Is It Time To Give Up Your Car?

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Car Safety

I recently heard the (incredibly sexist) quote “A man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure”, and I found it completely ridiculous. The car is known to be one of the greatest and most life-changing inventions of all time, and while I don’t disagree with this, I don’t believe that a car in any way correlates with your successes or your fulfilment in life. With trains, buses, and good ol’ fashioned legs, cars just aren’t necessary, and, in fact, can cause a lot more harm than good. Here are four reasons why it might be time to give up your car.

Improve Your Health

These days, obesity is an incredibly common health problem, as people rarely have a reason to use their legs. Usually, this means that people are doing little to no exercise each day. Even if you chose to use public transport every day, you’d still need to walk to your closest bus stop, or train station, which I guarantee is further than the length you have to walk to your car and will do you a world of good.

Combat Global Warming

Despite what some people may believe, global warming is real, and it is an incredibly serious issue. The impact of global warming can be seen every single day in the rising sea levels, devastating floods, and record high temperatures. In the US, cars account for around one fifth of all carbon emissions. The only way to reduce this is to use your cars less, or stop using them altogether.

Reduce Car Accidents

In the USA, around 37,000 people are killed in car accidents every single year, with around 1,600 of those being children under the age of 15.  A further 2.35 million people are injured in the accidents. The only solace for these people is that they might be able to get some compensation with the help of a firm like Nehora Law Firm. The only way to reduce this number is to have fewer cars on the road, or, at the very least, to be more responsible while driving.

Support Local Businesses

When you go into your local town centre, have you noticed that a lot of the stores are boarded up, and all that’s left are a few charity shops, and maybe the odd dollar store? This is because smaller, local businesses can’t survive in town centres anymore, because there is no passing trade, as most people that go shopping drive to somewhere further away. If more people ditched their cars and headed into their town centre rather than further afield, these stores would be able to stay open.

Having a car has it’s advantages, of course, which is why it’s highly unlikely that many people are going to give up their cars any time soon, but for every positive, there is another negative. There are many reasons to use a car, all of which are completely understandable and justifiable, but, for me at least, the reasons not to use a car are pretty convincing.

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Culture and Lifestyle

Employment with a Disability: What You Need to Know

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disability and work

There are 13.3 million disabled individuals in the UK and 18% of working age adults have some kind of disability. Many of these people are able to work but believe that they will struggle to find and/or maintain employment, but this is not true.

Your Rights

Under law, businesses are not allowed to discriminate against a potential employee and this includes those with disabilities. Regardless of your disability, you are entitled to equality and fair treatment when it comes to recruitment, promotion and pay – this also means that a workplace must be made accessible to you. In addition to this, changes in technology, transportation and infrastructure means that it is now easier than ever for somebody with a disability to find and maintain employment in a variety of sectors.

Looking for Employment

Visiting the local Job Centre can help you to find disability-friendly employers in the area, get insightful advice on landing work and also help you to gain new skills that will help you to find work. It is also worth looking out for application forms with the “disability confident” symbol – this means that the employer is committed to employing disabled people and that you are guaranteed an interview if you meet the basic conditions for the role.

Access to Work

If you have a condition that makes it difficult for you to complete your job, you can talk to an employer about changes to the workplace. These are known as “reasonable adjustments” and can include changing working hours or providing equipment to make your job easier. Alternatively, you can apply for Access to Work – this can include a grant for special equipment and support worker services.

Transportation

One of the major hurdles that many people with a disability find is not the job itself, but actually transportation to and from work. If you are unable to drive, it can be difficult to rely on someone to take you to and from work and public transportation is not up to the required standard. Thanks to advances and many great adaptations, many people with disabilities are now learning to drive in adapted cars and the Motability Scheme can make it easy for those on a mobility allowance to lease a vehicle. Places like Allied Mobility have a wide range of suitable vehicles, including wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs).

Around 50% of working-age people with a disability are in employment, but this figure could and should be much higher. Fortunately, there is a lot of support and guidance available to help those with a disability to find some kind of employment and maintain their job. Additionally, advances in technology and adaptations can make it much easier for people with a wide range of conditions to work in a number of different sectors.

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