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The Case of Universal Basic Income in Indonesia

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Universal Basic Income or UBI has been widely discussed throughout the world. Many are questioning whether UBI can be implemented in their own country as it might be able to solve automation in the future and alleviate poverty. However, not all country can implement this idea as some may argue it is not the best solution. This essay will examine the key aspect on UBI implementation in Indonesia, which are employment opportunity and poverty’s solution. It will then put forward the reasons why UBI will not work in Indonesia.

Skidelsky (2016) believes that UBI will see demand’s increasement as the number of work automation outbursts in the near future. He claims that within 20 years, advance technology can possibly replace 30 percent of employment in the western globe. Indeed, technology is currently developing in every part of the globe including Indonesia. However, they can’t easily replace human labor yet. As Gruen (2017, p. 4) points out, machine will not take over all kind of work, instead, most are created to ‘complements’ the work. In Indonesia, specifically, technology advancement is not that big that it is able to replace a large number of works. There is no concrete evidence that technology has pushed massive numbers of people out from their current job.

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Even when there is, it will take a long time before a company can fully replace human labor with machine as it could be very expensive. The entire job market should be replaced by machine until nothing left and after then only, the government should interfere with program such as UBI. Therefore, the proponents of UBI should be able to show not only the loss of employment, but also inability to find one at considerable period (Cowan, 2017). Some strong supporter of UBI argues that it could be the best solution for poverty. Santens (2016, para. 34) believes that UBI is the key to abolish poverty as poverty ‘simply’ is a shortage of money. The easiest way to solves that, after all, is to give cash to people. It is true that UBI can cover the basic needs in life such as food, health, and possibly education as well. However, giving money to every citizen doesn’t mean that it will abolish poverty. As Schmidt (2008) points out, government’s ability plays a big role in identifying early risk of poverty and they are responsible to act to minimize the impact. This means that weak institution will leave the gap for politicians and government to exploit public resources. Indonesia have never been the cleanest and most transparent country in the world. In fact, Transparency International shows that Indonesia ranks 96th out of 175 country in their corruption’s perception index.

Moreover, there has been an evidence that similar project like UBI ends up corrupted by the local government. For example, direct cash aid program that was corrupted by village head in East Java on 2014. This shows that giving money to people will not alleviate poverty if the institution cannot stand upright. In conclusion, while the supporters of UBI claim that it can accommodate employment in the future and possibly alleviate poverty, these alone cannot justify that UBI can actually work in Indonesia. There are many things to consider such as whether technology replaces all work in the future and if reformation in Indonesia’s institution is needed before proceeding to UBI. The government should really research everything as UBI is not the cheapest investment.


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