Will The Basic Income Experiment Work In Canada?

Categories: Cafe Talk.

Nov 9, 2018 // By:Gary // No Comment

“The nature of work is changing”

Said Jaczek, ‘The classic image of fraudulent access to social assistance is a bit of a myth. It happens, but our analysis is that fraud is very small. We have a basic belief that the vast majority of people do want to be included in society and they do want to contribute.’

Or, as Segal has put it, ‘[Traditional welfare systems] assume that poor people can’t make rational decisions and shouldn’t be allowed to make their own choices. That in my view is a huge mistake.’

The idea of giving people a basic income is en vogue across the developed world. Proposed by Richard Nixon in the 1970s and tested in the Canadian town of Dauphin, Manitoba, in the 1960s, it is now seen as a solution to the way jobs are being changed by technology and economic stagnation. Trials are going ahead in Finland and Holland, while Switzerland recently had a referendum on the subject (rejecting the proposal) and the investment firm Y Combinator is planning a pilot in California.

Proponents see in it a way to look after people whose employment is precarious – a few shifts here, a temporary contract there. Headline examples are companies like Deliveroo and Uber, which pay by the number of deliveries or journeys rather than giving drivers a salary. In this so-called gig economy, people may earn more when the going is good, but are more vulnerable to any change in the situation.

Said Jaczek, ‘I’m a politician, so I go door to door, and a lot of parents I spoke to last time were worried about their twentysomething kids, because of the way the nature of work is changing.’

The most enthusiastic supporters of basic income also believe that it will provide the foundation for a society in which huge sections of the population are made unemployed by automation. In this optimistic reading of our societies’ future, the machines will do the work and humans will have a minimum standard of living guaranteed. (The pessimistic position is that the handful of people in California who built the machines will be unimaginably rich and everyone else will sink back into medieval serfdom.)

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