Child labor NurPhoto/Getty Images

¿Puede un ingreso básico universal ayudar a los países pobres?

BERKELEY – La vieja idea de reestructurar el estado del bienestar con un ingreso básico universal incondicional últimamente ha despertado interés en todo el espectro político. Desde la izquierda se la considera como un antídoto simple y potencialmente integral para la pobreza. Desde la derecha se la percibe como una forma de demoler complejas burocracias de asistencia social y reconocer simultáneamente la necesidad de ciertas transferencias sociales de una manera que no debilite significativamente los incentivos. También brinda cierta garantía ante el temido futuro en que los robots puedan reemplazar a los trabajadores en muchos sectores. Pero, ¿puede realmente llegar a funcionar?

Hasta el momento, la pregunta ha sido considerada principalmente en países avanzados y los números no parecen prometedores. Aunque —según se informa— Canadá, Finlandia y los Países Bajos están considerando actualmente la idea del ingreso básico, algunos economistas prominentes de países avanzadosadvierten que es algo ostensiblemente prohibitivo. En Estados Unidos, por ejemplo, entregar 10 000 USD por año a cada adulto —una cifra inferior al umbral oficial de la pobreza para un hogar unipersonal— agotaría casi todos los ingresos fiscales federales del sistema actual. Tal vez haya sido ese tipo de aritmética el que llevó a los votantes suizos a rechazar abrumadoramente la idea en un referendo a principios de este mes.

¿Pero qué hay de los países con ingresos bajos o medios? De hecho, un ingreso básico bien puede ser fiscalmente posible —por no hablar de socialmente deseable— en lugares donde el umbral de la pobreza es bajo y las redes de seguridad social existentes son débiles y cuya administración representa una carga considerable.

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