The government in Canada have announced a new scheme that will offer citizens unconditional free cash, regardless of their work status.
The trial will initially be conducted in Ontario, and is intended to mirror similar schemes in Finland and the Netherlands in which the government give citizens a regular monthly allowance.
The “basic income” scheme is intended to help people cover living expenses such as food, transportation, clothing, and utilities regardless of their background or job status.
It’s a radical idea, and one that has been around since the 1960s. It’s called “basic income.” In the decades since it was first proposed, various researchers and government officials have given basic income experiments a try, to mixed results.
Folks at the Basic Income Canada Network, the national organization promoting basic income, have high hopes.
“We need it rolled out across Canada, and Quebec, too, is in the game,” said chair of BICN, Sheila Regehr, in a statement. “So there’s no reason why people and governments in other parts of this country need sit on the sidelines – it’s time for us all to get to work.”
Ontario officials haven’t decided when or where exactly it’ll roll out the program, nor how much each person will receive. When it does, the money will come from a portion ofOntario’s budget set aside for the experiment.
In Finland, a small social democratic country, people will receive an additional 800 euros per month, or just shy of $900. In various cities throughout the Netherlands, people receive an extra $1,000.
Ontario at least doesn’t seem to be spinning its wheels. Canada’s federal minister of families, children, and social development, Jean-Yves Duclos, formally endorsed the experiment early last month, saying that basic income merits a genuine discussion.
“There are many different types of guaranteed minimum income,” Duclos told The Globe and Mail. “I’m personally pleased that people are interested in the idea.”
In theory, basic income should work.
While one kneejerk reaction is to argue that free money creates a lazy working class, research suggests the opposite is true. Supported by the financial safety net, people in one 2013 study actually worked 17% longer hours and received 38% higher earnings when basic income was given a shot.
In a country like Canada, where healthcare and retirement savings are already highly socialized, it isn’t farfetched to think a steady income paid for by the taxpayers could roll out smoothly.