Hidden deep in this year’s Ontario budget is funding to explore a basic income guarantee (BIG) pilot program.
This is really interesting. Current social assistance programs are bloated and create barriers for people looking to get back into the workplace. Is this pilot project worth looking into? Let’s look at some of the positives:
The shift from full-time to part-time jobs in Ontario is a reality for many people employed in Ontario. Part-time work is often not enough to cover basic needs. A BIG would help fill that gap without having to go through the many hurdles currently in place for income assistance. The same would apply to people in between jobs.
Also, healthcare funding is the single biggest expense for any province, eating up a massive 40 percent of the Ontario budget. Poverty is the biggest determinant of health. A basic income guarantee is proven to send less people to hospitals.
Manitoba tried a similar project in the 1970’s known as the Mincome project. The Mincome data showed that under a BIG, hospital visits dropped by 8.5 per cent.
Many people believe a basic income would have a negative impact on the labour market. Simply, no one would want to go out and find a job. Mincome data also shows that this is false.
The only people choosing to stay home were mothers with infants at home, basically paying for maternity leave. This is no longer an issue due maternity leave benefits. The other group that chose not to work were teenage boys. Instead, young males were found to stay in school until graduation instead of dropping out to find work.
Of course, many things have changed in Canada since the 1970’s so it would be interesting to see what kind of data this pilot project produces.
With the Liberals looking to restrain spending in the coming years to finally balance the budget, a streamlined basic income system that eliminates current social assistance programs may just save the province a lot of money it is currently throwing away.
Too good to be true? Let’s wait and see if the government can get it right this time around.
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