In recent years, the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) has gained momentum as a potential solution to economic challenges in various parts of the world, including Canada. UBI is a progressive social policy that ensures every citizen receives a regular, unconditional sum of money from the government, regardless of their employment status or financial standing. As Canada explores the possibility of implementing UBI, the discussion around its benefits, particularly in the face of increasing job losses, has become increasingly relevant.
The Canadian UBI Initiative
Canada has been at the forefront of experimenting with UBI initiatives, conducting pilot projects in certain provinces to assess its feasibility and impact. These trials involve providing a regular income to a select group of citizens, aiming to evaluate the effects of financial stability on their lives, employment choices, and overall well-being. While these initiatives are in their early stages, they reflect the Canadian government’s commitment to exploring innovative solutions to address economic inequalities and social challenges.
Benefits of UBI Amid Job Losses
Financial Stability: One of the primary benefits of UBI, especially in the context of job losses, is the assurance of financial stability. With a guaranteed income, individuals and families can meet their basic needs, including housing, food, and healthcare, even if they face unemployment or underemployment.
Economic Stimulus: UBI acts as a continuous economic stimulus, as people have money to spend, boosting local businesses and the economy. Increased consumer spending can lead to job creation in various sectors, counteracting the effects of job losses in specific industries.
Encouraging Entrepreneurship: UBI provides a safety net that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation. Individuals may be more willing to start their businesses, pursue creative endeavors, or invest in education and training, knowing they have a stable income to rely on during the initial stages of their ventures.
Reduced Income Inequality: UBI helps bridge the income gap by ensuring that everyone, regardless of their socioeconomic background, has access to a basic standard of living. This reduction in income inequality fosters a more equitable society, promoting social cohesion and stability.
Improved Mental and Physical Health: Financial insecurity often leads to stress and anxiety, which can adversely affect mental and physical health. UBI provides a sense of security, reducing stress levels and potentially leading to overall improvements in the population’s health and well-being.
Simplified Social Welfare Systems: Implementing UBI can streamline existing social welfare programs, making the system more efficient and less bureaucratic. This simplification ensures that individuals receive the support they need without navigating complex application processes, saving time and resources for both the government and citizens.
The need for a basic income program intensified during and after the COVID-19 epidemic as the potential of a long-term income program was highlighted by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provided $2,000 a month to millions of Canadians. The guaranteed basic income program would cost the federal government $85 billion, according to estimates made by the Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux in April 2021, but it would reduce poverty rates by half by giving low-income households roughly $17,000 annually.
Bill S-233 is being processed by the Red Chamber. If approved, it would mandate the creation of a “national framework” by the finance minister for the implementation of a guaranteed livable basic income (GLBI) program across the country.
The effectiveness of a basic income program was questioned by members of the Senate’s standing committee on national finance, particularly with regard to how it might affect government spending and the Canadian economy. Senators were informed by Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux that in order to finance a similar program at the federal level, Canada may need to reduce social assistance at the provincial level or tax credits like the GST credit.
PROS and CONS of UBI
Advocates draw attention to a number of advantages, including improved community health, higher employment rates, and greater financial stability. They point out that in experimental programs, UBI hasn’t resulted in unfavourable consequences like an increase in jobless claims or alcohol consumption. UBI’s proponents contend that it enables college students to focus on their hobbies rather than just earning degrees that will make them money.
Opponents claim that raising taxes on everyone would be necessary to pay for a national UBI system. They express concern that some people may lose interest in looking for job if there are no prerequisites for receiving UBI (such as employment verification or a willingness to work). Additionally, there is concern that free income can lead to inflation, thereby undermining the intention of UBI to lower poverty and raise standards of living.
Elon Musk on Universal Human Basic Income
As a inventor, billionaire and visionary, Elon Musk predicts that high-tech mechanization would make it necessary for governments to give individuals a basic income in order to reduce social inequity. SpaceX founder and Tesla CEO Elon Musk remarked during a live session at the World Government Summit in Dubai in February 2017 that policymakers should be aware of the ripple effects of robotics and artificial intelligence replacing jobs.
According to Musk, the rate of technological advancement was causing “a massive social challenge. And I think ultimately we will have to have some kind of universal basic income (UBI). I don’t think we’re going to have a choice.”
Politicians, corporate executives, and academics are growing more concerned about how technological advancements may affect future generations’ employment prospects. While low-skilled factory positions were long ago mechanized, the ability of machines to execute ever-more-complex tasks has led to the automation of even parts of well-paid, middle-class jobs like doctors and lawyers.
Giving purpose to people’s lives will be a more difficult job, according to Elon Musk: “A lot of people they derive their meaning from their employment, so, if you don’t have [work], if you’re not needed … what’s the meaning? … Do you feel useless?”
When taking implementation of AI and Industrial revolution 4.0, perhaps having universal basic income would be a great good idea. Job losses are the real threat, technology has eliminated over 10 000 jobs at Microsoft, thousands of people have lost their jobs at Walmart, McDonalds and even many Canadian banks have announced job cuts due to automatization. People loose their jobs and the big cut hasn’t even started yet. Beside the need of some sort of government support, benefit of UBI could be beneficial for families to finally have more time to spend with their loved ones instead of working one or even two jobs in order to pay for all the bills.
Elon Musk is right when he saids that we will need UBI in the future yet his argument that humans derive their meaning based on work is worrisome. People work to contribute to their society, back in the days, people have worked on the fields to have enough to eat, in the industrial world people have been working in order to make enough money to be able to pay for all the benefits of urban living. Infrastructure supporting modern cities, need to be financed, buying houses need to be paid for as well as transportation etc.
People don’t live to work or at least we want to believe that. If we live to work, we are no different than humanoid cattle and there is really no need for humans if we don’t work. A cruel thought and dangerous concept.
With better society structure, people could finally have time to better contribute to society, people would perhaps have more time to devote their labour and mental capabilities to things they love doing instead doing what pays best. Perhaps talent would create more inventions, having more time would perhaps create more art and music instead just punching cards on the way in and out of work at jobs many don’t like and feel miserable about.