The principle is simple : pay an allowance on a regular basis to every citizen, universal, unconditional and individualised.
May 29, 2020
Updated on may 30, 2020 at 6h03
Ammunition the basic income universal
The crisis of the COVID-19 force to rethink the future of society and ideas marginalized benefit from a renewed interest in the light of the pandemic. This is the case for basic income is universal, an economic proposition that is gaining in popularity, both in Quebec and elsewhere in the world.
Even pope Francis has spoken in a letter written to his followers at Easter. “This would ensure and would set out the ideal, both human and christian, that there should be no worker without rights,” he wrote. While hiding there behind that proposal, that seduces in a time of crisis?
The principle is simple : pay an allowance on a regular basis to every citizen, universal, unconditional and individualised. This monthly sum is to be combined with other income. “The money, it is the power to decide what we can do with his life, and the ability to invest in its future. While making a basic income, it gives the freedom to individuals to pursue education, start a business or to help their family, says Jonathan Brown, a member of the group basic Income Québec, which promotes the extent in the province. It is a proposal which is very simple, to the inverse of the welfare State that we currently have, which is complex and costly to manage.”
For proponents of the measure, a basic income allows you to go through economic crises such as that caused by the COVID-19, and to guarantee a minimum to all citizens. “If one day I lose my job, or something as serious as a pandemic for example, I can count on the basic income for a period of time, says former liberal minister of Employment and social Solidarity, and professor of political science at the Université Laval, François Blais. This is the reason why we talk about it today. At the beginning of this crisis, the government was looking for a vehicle to give money to the citizens and it is in this context that the Delivery of the canadian emergency (PCU) has been created, but with the defects of a program designed to quickly. This is where the income base is income in the discussions.”
“The money, it is the power to decide what we can do with his life, and the ability to invest in its future. While making a basic income, it gives the freedom to individuals to pursue education, start a business or even help their family. ”
Jonathan Brown, a member of the group basic Income Quebec
What is certain, is that the SFP, although it was not universal, has opened a breach in the debates surrounding the basic income to the country. “There is no reason that the PCU does not become a basis of income standing, writes Jonathan Brown. It has been seen that when the government wants to act, it has the capacity to do so.”
The form, the settings and the amount of the universal basic income remain subject to debate. To Jonathan Brown, the basic income in Quebec would take the form of dividends from a fund managed by the government. This fund would be replenished by the profits of companies such as Hydro-Québec or Loto-Québec, as well as by taxes. Others view it as a reorganization of the taxation.
An idea that resonates in Quebec
The basic income is present for several decades in the political sphere in quebec. The liberal Party of Quebec has made a first shape, with an allowance for persons not eligible for employment because of physical constraints and mental, combined with other income. For its part, the Parti quebecois has included consultations on the implementation of a basic income in its program. Even the former ADQ had proposed a draft law in this sense at the beginning of the millennium.
But this is Québec solidaire, which has most recently taken on the forum about it. At the end of march, the party has proposed a universal allowance of $ 2000 for all Quebecers who request it, pending the arrival of federal assistance of the PCU — finally paid in mid-April. “If we had had this kind of program, there would be many individuals who would find the crisis less hard than they do today,” says, in the interview, the co-spokesperson of Québec Solidaire, Manon Massé.
The guaranteed minimum income is for Québec Solidaire, a tool that would add to a raft of measures, such as the increase in the minimum wage. The party proposes a universal income from 18 years up to the age of retirement, where other programs will not. In its programme, the training policy, plans to launch pilot projects of minimum guaranteed income, notably in the Gaspé peninsula, to have evidence that provides a possible extension lasting the rest of the province.
The main criticism against the concept of universal income is its cost exorbitant. For the advocates of the project, everything is a question of vision. The basic income is a long-term investment. “When free public education was proposed, there have been many critics unfavourable because of the cost,” explains Jonathan Brown. Today, it is reaping the benefits. We have a society far more educated.”
According to the form, the question of cost would not be a. “Those who find it expensive are mistaken on the notion of cost, writes François Blais. Among the serious proposals, there is the idea of redistributing the billions that already exist, through the taxation of individuals.”
The second brake is of the moral order, because giving money could be to dampen the incentive to work. “That is what you would do with 2000 $? queries Jonathan Brown. There is a tendency to view things negatively when one thinks about the other, but when it comes to oneself it is certain that we would make good use of it.”
The primary objective of such a measure is to be a floor that is not a substitute for employment, and to which other income can be added. “I’ve worked all my life with people who live in poverty and their main aim is to get out of, pleads Manon Massé. It is wrong knowing people in this situation and the difficulty of living with the minimum.”
Discussions are heating up at the international
The basic income is discussed since years in several countries, with results for the least variable. In the United States, the candidate for the nomination democrat Andrew Yang has focused in his campaign, which he called “Freedom Dividend” (The dividend of freedom). It is, however, withdrew from the race and supported the current democratic candidate Joe Biden, whose program has not accepted this suggestion to be economic. With the French presidential election of 2017, the socialist candidate, Benoît Hamon had made it the cornerstone of his campaign. A gamble which led to a historically low 6% for his party.
But the tone of the speech changes and the crisis of the coronavirus acts as a real catalyst. In Scotland, the first minister Nicola Sturgeon said at the beginning of the month of may that “the time had come” for the introduction of a universal income, and that “constructive discussions” in this sense are ongoing with the british government. On the side of Spain, one of the countries strongly affected by the coronavirus with more than 27 000 people dead, the minister of the Economy Nadia Calvino has announced work on a universal basic income. This is an emergency measure, but whose ambition is to transform it into “an instrument of structural and permanent.”
Appearance very theoretical, the idea of a basic income has also been subject to empirical experiences. Finland was presented in early may the results of a pilot project, conducted across the country in 2017 and 2018. The government paid two thousand unemployed a monthly fee of 560 euros — equivalent to $ 860 — without consideration or obligation. The study performed by the University of Helsinki shows that the experience has been effective to reduce stress and improve general well-being of the participants, but had negligible effects on the return to employment.