Canada Is Launching a Major Test of Universal Basic Income
Now Ontario, Canada, is planning its own basic income trial as well.
On April 24, Premier Kathleen Wynne outlined new details of the Ontario Basic Income Pilot (OBIP), which is slated to begin later this spring and last for three years.
A total of 4,000 people in three regions in the province will begin receiving additional income based on each individual's current salary.
A single person in the trial can receive up to $16,989 per year, though the equivalent of 50% of any additional earned income will be subtracted from that total. So a person who makes $10,000 a year at their job, for example, would receive $11,989 in basic income, for a total income of $21,989.
Eligible recipients, who must be considered low-income and be between 18 and 64 years old, will be chosen through a randomized selection process
In her announcement, Premier Wynne said one goal of the pilot is to reassure people that their government supports them.
"It says to them, government is with you. Ontario is with you," she said.
The premise of basic income is straightforward: People get monthly checks to cover living expenses such as food, transportation, clothing, and utilities — no questions asked.
Along with Canada, a number of countries are conducting their own basic income trials.
Finland's government launched its pilot on January 1, and is giving 2,000 unemployed Finns $590 a month. In various cities throughout the Netherlands, 250 people will soon receive an extra $1,100 per month for two years. And in Kenya, the charity GiveDirectly has launched a trial version of a 12-year study that seeks to gather the first longitudinal data on basic income.
The concept of basic income has been around since the 1960s. In the decades since the radical idea was proposed, various researchers and government officials have given basic income experiments a try, with mixed results.
In general, however, the data seem to tilt in basic income's favor. One study, published in late 2016, found people who received unconditional cash transfers used vices like drugs and alcoholless frequently than people who didn't receive the money. And though it's easy to assume free money would make people lazy, research suggests the opposite is true. People in one 2013 study actually worked 17% longer hours and received 38% higher earnings when getting a basic income.
Skeptics, meanwhile, argue that because many basic income trials have been conducted in small villages in the developing world, the findings don't necessarily translate to developed countries.
Ontario's trial will begin in the regions of Hamilton, including Brantford and Brant County, and in Thunder Bay and the surrounding area. The third pilot will launch in Lindsay in the fall.
"Everyone should benefit from Ontario's economic growth," Wynne said in a statement. "A basic income will support people in our province who are reaching for a better life."