Promote jobs that need the human touch

The impending massive unemployment caused by technological disruption is a real and urgent threat to many societies, especially developed economies.

However, the proposal mooted by some European countries to give a basic salary to every citizen, including those who are gainfully employed, is untenable ("Why the debate on unconditional basic income is relevant for S'pore"; Tuesday).

Only a few countries can contemplate such an expensive undertaking. Already, some European countries, most notoriously Greece, are burdened with huge debts in financing, much less ambitious social welfare programmes.

The solution to this challenge of rapid technological advances lies in promoting alternative avenues of employment that are not affected by technology.

Basically, these are jobs that are best performed by humans, such as healthcare, hospitality services, entertainment, sports, culture and artistic and creative design.

One of the most important tasks that go beyond robotics is bringing up children. Given a generous salary, many mothers or fathers would be glad to leave the workforce and be full-time homemakers, thus solving another critical challenge of declining fertility rates in developed countries.

The struggle for survival is a basic natural instinct of all animals, including humans.

To give handouts to the unemployed is like keeping captive animals in the zoo. They may be well looked after and do not pose a nuisance to the public, but it is a meaningless, listless and undignified existence.

Work creation for a rewarding life is, therefore, more desirable than unaffordable charity.

Robert Tang Hin Ching

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2016, with the headline 'Promote jobs that need the human touch'. Print Edition | Subscribe