Basic Income Guarantee…and how it is beneficial to Millennials and Generation Y
Toronto is regularly ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world but every year, without fail, Canadians are forced to pay an increase in Hydro or TTC fares and along with ballooning gas prices and inflation, disposable income is no longer so disposable.
Basic Income Guarantee is set to combat this financial dilemma as it is set to begin its pilot project in Ontario of April 2017. Basic Income Guarantee or BIG is a supplementation to anyone’s income that is below the poverty line of $19,930 for adults working full-time. It simply ‘tops up’ the individual’s income so that they are above the poverty line. For example, if someone is working full-time and is not making $19,000, BIG will cover the difference so that the individual will have more than that baseline amount. During the pilot project, other social services or welfare programs will NOT be cancelled, and as a result, BIG will work with these existing programs to help individuals reach above the poverty line.
Jenna Van Draanen of Basic Income Canada Network revealed to me the benefits of Basic Income Guarantee and who it can potentially benefit the most. ‘We saw women taking longer maternity leaves; spending time at home with their kids and we also saw young men in high school staying in high school and finishing their diplomas.’
‘So those are the things I think represent positive changes in the labour market participation and it does combat what we typically think of you know; that people will quit their jobs or stop working.’
Basic Income Guarantee is a program aimed to benefit those in the low to middle income families. It simply produces an equal platform for all citizens of a developed country to play on. It endorses education for all those despite their economic backgrounds and it allows for healthcare and social services to all people. For those making above the poverty line, they will not be distributed any additional money and those in the high income bracket will not be allowed to participate in the program. Along with the revamping of OSAP and the redistribution of student loans, it may actually seem like the Canadian government is making an effort to shrink the gap that is income inequality.
At first glance it seems too good to be true that the government would hand out money to those who decide they don’t want to work. But upon further review of previous projects (in India, Libya and Finland), things tend to be a little more optimistic.
‘And I think the other thing that is interesting about the labour market participation in some of the international experiments in Libya and India, [is that] we’ve seen people be more likely to be entrepreneurial and start small businesses because it’s a little bit of protection,’ Van Draanen adds. ‘If the business fails and [has] to go bankrupt for some reason, you’re guaranteed at least to have the basic necessities and you don’t need to worry about losing your life.’
So essentially, Basic Income Guarantee is a safety net for those who do not have a steady income or who do not participate in the work force year-round. For instance, a real-estate agent who works solely off of commission, is judged based on their merits, and their income reflects that. If the real estate market is slow, or a family emergency prevents them from working, their ability to make a living and subsist will be severely hindered. But BIG will guarantee that this broker will not have to worry about being below the poverty line since BIG will ensure that this individual will never stray under $19,000 a year. Furthermore, BIG tends to incentivize entrepreneurs and small businesses since it provides business owners with the safety net they desire. Given that a business fails, they do not have to worry about sleeping on the street since BIG will ensure that they have food in their stomachs, water to drink and a roof over their heads. Van Draanen adds that since most labour jobs are beginning to be mechanized, the amount of jobs are slowly but surely diminishing and it is up to the government to stay up to date and to create infrastructure and programs that will combat these situations.
According to the Basic Income Canada Network website, it’s goal is to provide individuals with enough money to live above the poverty line, achieve basic necessities and to live with dignity. But what does ‘basic necessities’ cover and what does ‘living with dignity’ entail?
‘We believe that a basic income would simplify all of that and allow people the assurance of just the basic amount of money, nothing glamourous, but something that will allow for basic needs to be met and that will not have some of the restrictive things of the current welfare system.’
‘[It will allow] people to make choices best for them in their own lives. They can choose to invest in their education, they can spend a little bit more on housing, a little bit more on food, whatever meets their needs.’
These basic necessities would cover food and a place for shelter but it doesn’t cover some of the more modern necessities. It doesn’t include internet usage, a cell phone plan let alone a cellphone, and certainly not a computer or laptop; which for many Canadians, these things would be considered essentials.
Van Draanen explained to me that the current Canadian welfare system imposes a lot of restrictions on what individuals can and cannot do with their money. Moreover, welfare systems and social programs tend to incentivize individuals NOT to find work since a part-time or full-time job would decrease the amount of money they receive.
‘It’s an insurance policy, it’s a way to sort of stimulate the creative sectors, give people a chance to do something that they love without worrying about whether or not they’re going to end up on the streets.’ Van Draanen added.
I believe that the BIG program will be greatly beneficial to millennials and those employees who are filling in the gaps left behind by the Baby Boomers. Van Draanen is certainly correct in her assessment that the work force is being taken over by machines. Thus, it is important for the new, upcoming workers to carve out their own niche. This may be creating an app (Twitter, Uber, Snapchat, etc.) or building their own businesses, but it is certainly not the traditional path of working 9 to 5 until retirement. Basic Income Guarantee will allow the younger generations to take risks and pursue passions. It will give the newcomers the insurance that they crave to go out and take a leap of faith. Innovations and inventions weren’t made from a comfortable place; they were created from risks and alternate thinking. Without a safety net we will be forced to waste time and money creating our own, but given one by the State we can instead focus our time and energy on the betterment of society and the improvement of mankind.
For the full audio interview with Jenna Van Draanen please visit my YouTube channel, Basic Radio and for more information on Basic Income Guarantee, visit their website at http://www.basicincomecanada.org/.