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Basic Income and Being in the Wrong Job

I recently joined the (Basic Income Canada Network) on Linkedin because I think a Basic Income is good policy for many reasons. Most often we hear about Basic Income as an income security tool to lift people on the lower end of the economic ladder out of poverty and provide them with job dignity and a better quality of life.  Those are excellent reasons and many people can make better, more eloquent arguments in those areas than I can. I would like to write about the benefits it can provide to getting the right people in the right job.

I am professional recruiter with 23 years of experience located in Toronto.  I have helped companies hire hundreds and hundreds of people in a large variety of roles (from reception to the C-Suite) and into every sector of our economy.  I have managed large teams, hired, fired and had people quit for all kinds of reasons.  It is possible that I have conducted interviews with over 20000 people in those years and read a million+ resumes.

Over time as a recruiter you start to notice clear patterns emerge in many different subsets of the employment market and one of them is that for many people they are in the wrong role or in a redundant role becoming extinct and a change to a new role is too costly for them. Sometimes its ego, lack of imagination or societal pressure that prevents them from the change but most often it is the lack of safety net and societal support that keeps them from moving in another direction. 

The classic examples are the young person starting out in a career and falling into something that they would rather not do because they could not afford the time to find the right role for themselves or the middle age worker who could become redundant or is dissatisfied with their role but can’t leave for the reasons mentioned above.

Let’s look at the mid-life worker.  

There are 2 types of mid-career workers that need support  changing careers. They are:

  1. Steady Eddie – Would like to change their career or role and contribute in a different way.  They have become bored and continue to do their job at a good level.  Steady Eddies are the automatons of the workplace.  Good people, professional, reliable.  They no longer innovate because change is risky and may not have the time for new learning or self-improvement due family constraints. Society tells them not to give up a “good job” because of economic obligations.
  2. Redundant Rob – Has been made redundant or can see that they will be made redundant.  This is the largest concern we should have in the economy.  There are examples through history for people caught in technological change that makes them redundant but automation of every sector is bearing down us and soon could be accelerating. Rob can see it coming before the rest of us can but is frozen in place.  Imagine a world where every third delivery vehicle is operated by a computer without a human and now imagine what the other 2.8 million former drivers are doing.

If Rob or Eddie could start to work part-time and have their income supplemented or quit their job with a safety net and not worry about constructing a reason to be terminated so they can collect Employment Insurance they would gradually start to find a way to transition to a new job and society would be better for the gradual transition. 

In Rob’s case he maintains income, can pay his bills, feels in control of his life and works towards building meaningful work and his employer gets to reap the benefits of automating his workforce without transferring a social cost to the rest of us.

Eddie is able to energize himself with learning and dreaming about another role while doing it in a socially and economically acceptable way. It is possible many Eddies would stay on their current gig if given the option to leave and transition into something new or different but their employer would benefit as this choice would also reenergize Eddie bringing new training and learning back to his current employer all while being more engaged than ever. If Eddie chooses to leave and begin something new, we get to benefit from Eddie’s energy and innovation in ways we were not previously.

A quick word and connection on the second group mentioned. Our young people. The wealthy have long encouraged their children to delay work to gain experiences, connections, academic successes and accreditations that will enable them to earn high incomes with respect and decision-making powers. For those people without the luxury of parental wealth, they usually starting working in roles that will hire them as young inexperienced workers and are more likely to hit a salary and promotion ceiling because they lack the post-graduate degrees and connections that come with taking a little more time at a key point in your life. 

For these young people a Basic Income would allow them the opportunity to develop skills, go back to school, express themselves artistically but most importantly see a future for themselves that they desire. Will some young people sit on the sofa smoking pot or playing video games? Probably. More than do now? Probably not.  Most of us want to do things, accomplish things, express ourselves. Fear and hopelessness are more likely to keep people on the sofa.  Basic income can help them here and teach them skills to retrain themselves later on in life if they become and Eddie or a Rob.

Choosing and being in the right job is important for both employees and employers.  Employers benefit from engaged, learned workers who will do their best and continue being creative and innovative. Basic Income can help get the right people in the right job benefiting everyone.

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