Canada’s Largest Province to Launch Universal Basic Income Trial

The Canadian province of Ontario will launch a trial run of universal basic income with about 4,000 participants this summer. This will make Canada the first North American government in decades to test out this type of policy. It guarantees income, regardless of their employment status. The idea of a “basic” income is gaining popularity around the globe. Supporters say the schemes offer workers greater security, especially as technological advances reduce the need for human labor. They also allow unemployed people to pick up odd jobs without losing most of their benefits.

Individuals in Ontario’s program can receive up to 16,989 Canadian dollars ($12,616) per year. In order to qualify, applicants must be between the ages of 18 and 64 and be living on a limited income. Researchers will monitor participants on criteria related to mental health, food, housing, education and employment. A randomly selected mail-out will invite applications in the coming months, with participants screened to ensure they qualify. The pilot will include a mix of those who are working in low-paying or precarious jobs and those on social assistance, with participants able to opt out at any point during the three years.

The pilot program aims to answer whether basic income is an effective means of addressing unpredictability in the national and global economy. This idea has been long touted by those on the left and right. Unconditional monthly payments will begin to flow this summer and all participants will continue to receive child or disability benefits, if applicable. The monthly income represents a slight increase for those currently on social assistance or disability support, but come with less monitoring and administration. Those who work will see the amount of their basic income reduced by 50 cents for every dollar they earn.

The outcomes of the monthly stipend will be monitored on an ongoing basis, with researchers delving into its impact on health, education, housing and labor force participation. The trial run in Ontario comes as the idea of basic income is becoming more popular around the world. Basic income projects are in the works in Finland, the Netherlands and Kenya.

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