What could the basic income guarantee do for women's rights?

Josephine Grey

Women’s rights are human rights and duties that are specific to addressing inequities and issues experienced by women (or those engaged/identified with traditional roles of women.) In most cases economic, social and cultural rights issues arise from the realities of motherhood or primary care-giving for children, vulnerable adults and elders, as well as the dynamics of gender relations and sexual exploitation that affect all women and girls. While much progress has been made, or at least appears to have been made, there remain many structural systemic and cultural issues that continue to plague women’s lives, in Canada and beyond.

One promising approach to the broader issues of poverty and inequity is the idea of a Basic Income Guarantee ("BIG"). What would this kind of program, which now has government backing in Ontario for pilot projects, mean for women, and how could it be shaped to ensure that it addresses the particular problems women face? For the purpose of this article a Basic Income Guarantee means an income sufficient to provide a basket of goods and services required to provide an adequate standard of living, indexed to the cost of living to every individual 18 and over, and with child benefits to be sustained up to age 17, regardless of work status.
Why not just increase rates and wages in the current system?


As I can attest from personal experience as a widow who raised 5 children, welfare and subsidized housing systems can be punitive, inadequate, humiliating and create long-term anxiety. For anyone forced to rely on today’s dysfunctional income programs, it can feel like one is being surveilled and at risk from having to rely on faceless bureaucrats who can make or break
one’s existence with a stroke of a pen or a simple computer error.

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