Friday January 06, 2017

Ontario considers the benefits of basic minimum income

Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens a basic monthly income.

Finland has become the first country in Europe to pay its unemployed citizens a basic monthly income.

Listen 12:54

Read story transcript

Ontario government is preparing to launch a pilot project for a universal basic income later this year. This age-old strategy for tackling poverty has been getting a lot of attention recently, with stagnating economies and the growing automation of labour worldwide.

In Europe, Finland started sending out cheques as part of an experiment just this week. The government will provide 2,000 of its unemployed citizens with a basic income of 560 euros, or about $785 Cdn, every month.

Other basic income pilot projects will soon be underway in California and the Netherlands.

The Current speaks with Guy Standing, founder of the Basic Income Earth Network and professor of development studies at the University of London, who launched a base wage pilot project in India a few years ago.

Thousands of people participated, each being paid 40 per cent the cost of subsistence living. The results were quite encouraging.

The major measures of welfare — health, sanitation, school attendance, security — all improved.

Equity between community members likewise improved, with the wage benefitting the most vulnerable community members community — women, children, the poor, the disabled — proportionally more.

"The outcome was earned incomes increased, and general inequalities of incomes decreased, and the general economic dynamism of the community was improved," says Standing. 

Surprisingly, the pilot revealed a basic wage increases work.

'People worked more, they were more productive in their work, and they took more entrepreneurial risks.' - Guy Standing

Standing's study also found the economic security offered by a base wage allowed participants to make only strategic financial choices, while avoiding money lenders, or other high risk earning scenarios.

"The emancipatory value of a basic income is greater than the money value."

But would these results translate to Canada? And how would we pay for it?

Guest host Piya Chattopadhyay finds out. 

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this webpost.

This segment was produced by The Current's Samira Mohyeddin.