TAIPEI: Compared to countries where the idea of universal basic income (UBI), regular cash payments made to every citizen with no strings attached, has been widely debated and even implemented on a small scale, Taiwan has shown little interest or even awareness of the idea until recently, but that could be changing. In terms of UBI, Taiwan is a latecomer even compared with our Asian neighbors. In the main, society is ignorant about the idea,” Peter Huang a veteran human rights advocate, told CNA on Dec. 19 last year. Huang added, “We have been largely isolated internationally, but we must not allow ourselves to remain apathetic to the global debate on UBI.” An advisor to the Lei Chen Public Interest Trust Fund, created to honor pioneering democracy advocate Lei Chen the 81-year-old Huang has been the main force behind recent efforts to generate public debate of UBI.
The number of people attending those lectures, especially young people, was “an even more hopeful sign” that there is a desire in Taiwan to learn more about UBI and its potential benefits, he added. Huang believes that one of the big challenges facing humanity in the 21st century is the inevitable elimination of jobs by artificial intelligence and automation. This together with wealth concentration and economic growth without employment will lead to joblessness, erosion of purchasing power and a decrease in the availability of decent work.
The magnitude of the problems is way beyond traditional approaches to poverty alleviation. As a result, possible solutions to income distribution and redistributions are being deliberated by every country,” Huang said. “We cannot lag so far behind in this regard.” Van Parijs has argued that regular basic income paid to individuals without means or work tests should be a central element in the institutional framework of “a free, fair and sustainable society.”