As the COVID-19 pandemic persists across Canada, millions of people have lost their jobs or had their work hours cut, exposing the economic insecurity with which Canadian families were already living.
Before the pandemic, half of Canadians were already struggling from paycheque to paycheque with little left over for savings, and household debt was at a record high. Few had enough set aside to pay the rent or put food on the table for even a short period of time. This situation wasn't caused by COVID-19; it reflects changes that have been ongoing for decades. More than a third of the workforce was working in precarious employment -- on contract, in temporary jobs, self-employed or working part-time when they would have preferred full-time work.
The economic shutdown that happened in March of this year revealed the inequality and economic insecurity people were already living with, and it has forced us to acknowledge the limitations of our existing social safety net. People displaced from their usual employment turned to employment insurance and learned that fewer than 40 per cent of them qualified for any support. Those who did qualify received payments too little even to pay the rent.Read more
A basic income program could have saved lives and reduced COVID-19 transmission when the pandemic struck last spring, says one of the country’s leading experts.
And basic income, as both a health and a poverty reduction policy, could still help people weather the second wave and those to come, said Evelyn Forget.
“When government decided that it was a public health emergency response and they closed down the economy in March,” said Forget in an interview, “they knew immediately that the social programs wouldn’t work, and that we had to put emergency supports in place if we were going to keep people home.”Read more
A new book is out by Evelyn Forget called Basic Income for Canadians: From the COVID-19 Emergency to Financial Security for All.
An update to her 2018 book in the wake of the worldwide pandemic, this book is an eminently readable manifesto that will undoubtedly help move the needle from discussing basic income to its eventual adoption.
From the publisher’s site:
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the idea of providing a basic income to everyone in Canada who needs it was already gaining broad support. Then, in response to a crisis that threatened to put millions out of work, the federal government implemented new measures which constituted Canada?s largest ever experiment with a basic income for almost everyone.
In this new and revised edition, Evelyn L. Forget offers a clear-eyed look at how these emergency measures could be transformed into a program that ensures an adequate basic income for every Canadian.
Forget details what we can learn from earlier basic income experiments in Canada and internationally. She weighs the options, investigates whether Canadians can afford a permanent basic income program and describes how it could best be implemented across the country.Read more
A newly released report co-authored by a professor at the University of Manitoba is calling on the federal government to guarantee a basic income for Canadians to help the economy recover from COVID-19.
The report recommends the government create a basic income guarantee of $17,000-$19,000, an amount just above the poverty line.
"We are talking about a targeted program," said Evelyn Forget, a community health sciences professor at U of M and coauthor of the report. "That means that somebody with no income would receive the full amount of the benefit. As their income increases, if they were working and earning some money, their benefit would be reduced by the amount they earned."Read more
By Evelyn Forget
A basic income—a regular, unconditional payment distributed by the government—is an old idea. Thomas More wrote about it during the Renaissance in Utopia, and Thomas Paine preached its merits when the United States was in its infancy. But the idea never gained mainstream acceptance.
Although social scientists had long been testing the effects of a basic income with pilot projects around the world, it was easy to imagine that the governments permitting these experiments hoped that public enthusiasm might die out by the time the results were compiled.
After the 2008 financial crisis, the International Labor Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Health Organization, and, especially, the World Bank showed some interest in a basic income. Never, however, did the idea make the leap from white papers to real-world policy.Read more
Evelyn Forget was a psychology student in Toronto in 1974 when she first heard about a ground-breaking social experiment that had just begun in the rural Canadian community of Dauphin, Manitoba.
“I found myself in an economics class which I wasn’t looking forward to,” she remembers. “But in the second week, the professor came in, and spoke about this wonderful study which was going to revolutionise the way we delivered social programmes in Canada. To me, it was a fascinating concept, because until then I’d never really realised you could use economics in any kind of positive way.”
The experiment was called ‘Mincome’, and it had been designed by a group of economists who wanted to do something to address rural poverty. Once it was implemented in the area, it had real results: over the four years that the program ended up running in the 1970s, an average family in Dauphin was guaranteed an annual income of 16,000 Canadian dollars ($11,700, £9,400).Read more
University of Manitoba News
A UM economist says that government assistance for people whose livelihood has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic shows that it may be time for universal basic income.
Dr. Evelyn Forget, who has long studied basic income as a means of reducing poverty, says that the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), introduced by the Canadian government last month, proves that existing income security programs such as Employment Insurance (EI) are inadequate.
Dr. Forget is in community health sciences at UM and academic director of the Manitoba Research Data Centre. She is an adjunct scientist with the Manitoba Centre for Health Policy and a research associate with Ongomiizwin – Research in the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences.Read more
Economic havoc wreaked by the coronavirus has led some to ask whether it’s time for a basic income.
In Canada alone, more than a million people have lost their jobs since March, with millions applying for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which gives $2,000 every month for up to four months to those who’ve lost income due to COVID-19.
As the pandemic’s cost to society became clear last month, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh called for “immediate direct help” in the form of a universal basic income.Read more
Evelyn Forget has quite literally written the book on basic income for Canadians. It’s called, you guessed it, Basic Income for Canadians.
As a health economist at the University of Manitoba, Forget re-discovered the Manitoba Mincome experiment of the 1970s, and undertook to analyze some 1800 cubic feet of data from the decades-old experiment. She found evidence of improved health and high school completion, and even an overall improved sense of community in the town of Dauphin, the one and only saturation site for the Mincome experiment.
In advance of her talk at this year’s Basic Income NS conference on Saturday at the Central Library, I called up Forget to ask her about the basics of basic income.Read more
Winnipeg Free Press
It’s no surprise that someone who had a bumpy start in life like Winnipeg-based author Evelyn Forget would be concerned with health, happiness and security.
Forget’s father died when she was 12, and she and her two younger siblings were raised by her mother, first on Mother’s Allowance and then on low-skilled and low-waged jobs.Read more