There are parts of this I very much agree with, but also parts that are commonly misunderstood, especially the “unwilling to look for work” part. I’ve certainly had a couple of times of unemployment in my life and not one of those times were in any way comfortable. Obviously this is a UK perspective, but that’s at least mostly in line with EU regulations, of course.
If you are single, with no dependents, sure, it is easy to get a job that pays better than being unemployed, provided you don’t have a high rent/mortgage (in the UK, rent/mortgage is covered provided it is ‘reasonable’, like not renting a 3 bedroom house when single or a childless couple) before they calculate what you get paid to cover everything else. That thing of the rent or mortgage being a separately covered thing can be a big deal.
If you have kids or other dependents though, well, today’s Europe just isn’t really geared towards the days of yore where there was a sole breadwinner and a stay-at-home-mom. Wages are set at levels that really need both partners to be working just to afford a pretty basic standard of living, and thus it is very difficult to find a job that would pay enough to even cover the bills as a single worker, but with non-working dependents. Sure, government programs exist (through absolute necessity) to “top up” such wages to be at least equal to the unemployment payments, but these rarely cover the additional expenses of working in real terms such as travel costs, meals at work separate to the meals for the family at home, work clothing where it is not provided as a uniform, etc.
So often I have known friends and acquaintances that were actually worse off working than being unemployed due to the additional expenses (and notice I didn’t even include daycare if the dependents were kids too young to be left alone), and they still chose to work just to avoid being bored, or to feel useful, or avoid social judgements, etc.
This is not because welfare systems pay too much, but because far too many company wage levels are exploitative, aimed at school leavers with few bills, and if you are not a school leaver with few bills, they’ll happily replace you with someone that is if any are available and able to do the job. Wages are too low, including statutory minimum wages that have led to massive reliance on charities, food banks, etc.
However, I have a genuine concern that we will all learn a lot more about the welfare system in the coming decade, because there’s a genuine and significant risk it will crash. Welfare systems all tend to run into trouble when more than around 10% of the population need them. They are all based on 90% of the population paying the taxes to cover all the costs.
The AI Revolution (and I don’t mean revolution like a robot uprising, but rather in the sense of the Agricultural Revolution, or the Industrial Revolution) is going to create a massive shift in economies and economics. This is obvious.
The agricultural revolution was all down to simply learning how to do crop rotation, at which point mechanization of farming with better machines for sewing, and harvesting, became worthwhile. Something so simple as learning to plant a field with alternating crops did all that, making huge numbers of the largely agricultural labour population unemployed and homeless.
If just learning how to rotate crops, and use better horse-drawn ploughs and drills did that, then there is very, very little chance that the ability for AI to replace almost all data-driven management jobs, most writing and clerical jobs, basic accounting, basic law and legal advice, etc. isn’t going to do the same.
It isn’t boolean, a yes or no. It is not that an AI has to do ALL the things that a writer, lawyer, manager, or accountant can do - they just have to do enough that all the basic tasks that might take 90% of the time of a professional, so that ONE human can spend 100% of their time on the 10% of tasks that an AI couldn’t do. Meaning one slightly better paid professional and 9 unemployed ones, for every ten people currently in those white collar jobs.
Fewer doctors, fewer lawyers, fewer accountants, and so forth, meaning more competition for those fewer jobs, and massive unemployment.
And NONE of the welfare systems can survive even 40% of the population depending on the taxes paid by the other 60%, and definitely not the entirely possible situation where it is the 60% that are unemployed, and only 40% that have high-pressure, AI driven jobs.
Especially as the few that benefit the most are the wealthy - the people that can afford to invest heavily in automation systems and AI in their companies, and do so precisely because it will mean they save wages and pay less to make more profits - are the exact same people that tend to pay the least taxes, to have the most off-shore tax havens, to have friends and influence in government that always get laws in their favour, etc.
The next few years are almost certain to be tumultuous, drastic, and pretty uncomfortable, judging from historical knowledge of what big, sweeping changes traditionally look like to those in them. Eventually, usually within a generation or two, society adapts, new economics and new economies evolve, and society as a whole evolves. But I seriously suggest studying history to learn just how many years (or in reality, generations) that generally takes.
I know that all sounds rather bleak, fearful. In a way, it should. If you don’t understand the risks, how are you going to properly manage them, and navigate the best route through the unavoidable changes that are coming? Burying heads in the sand or denying the risks is only going to leave you surprised and unprepared if the most likely things happen. Instead, planning, preparing, and constantly thinking of how the decisions you make today, affect the position you will be in in 5 years, or 10, is the best way to go.