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Banker Wahlroos: Basic income only viable solution in face of massive job losses

Björn Wahlroos, Finnish banking magnate and chairman of the board for multiple big-name companies in the Nordics, says robots are slowly replacing skilled labour in the marketplace. He predicts that many Finnish residents will soon be faced with two alternatives: low-paid work or unemployment.

Björn Wahlroos
Björn Wahlroos Image: Yle

One of Finland’s staunchest defenders of laissez-faire economics, business guru Björn Wahlroos, appeared on Yle’s Ykkösaamu programme Saturday morning with bad tidings. Among other things, he said that the new digitalized market economy will lead to a dearth of middle-income industrial work and an increase in low-wage jobs.

He says the biggest challenge is now to devise new jobs that are propped up by sufficient demand, as robots will soon take over the tasks associated with traditional work.

“It is clear that a massive amount of people will be eliminated from the current system,” he said, with reference to the looming automation.

No new proletariat

He said automation and digitalisation will leave blue-collar workers with two choices in its wake: to take a low-paid job or not work at all.

“We have to careful that a new proletariat isn’t born. The solution is to introduce a universal basic income, with everyone free to do work to supplement it,” he said.

Wahlroos says a basic income scheme would replace Finland’s system of state assistance for companies and permanent residents. He has promoted the idea of a basic income since the year 2001.

Wahlroos currently serves as the Chairman of the Board for the Swedish-owned Nordea Bank AB, the Finnish financial company Sampo Group and the Finnish forest industry company UPM-Kymmene Corporation. 

Tax avoider?

In the spring of 2014, the Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri reported that Wahlroos had moved his country of residence from Finland to Sweden in late 2013 because he believed the Swedish tax model was more favourable.

Earlier that spring, the outspoken banker had said that the lack of wage flexibility, loss of market share and structural problems plaguing Finnish industry were taking the economy in the wrong direction.

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