Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Saturday March 7, 2020
Did basic income drive people to quit work? Not according to a Mac study of recipients
Three-quarters of people who were employed before joining Ontario’s ill-fated basic income pilot project continued to work while receiving the no-strings-attached monthly stipend, according to a new study.
And more than one-third of those low-wage workers were able to move to higher paying and more secure jobs, according to the study by McMaster University researchers being released Wednesday.
The findings shatter the belief among skeptics that basic income discourages people from working. It also appears to contradict the Ford government’s charge that the experiment was “failing” before it was cancelled in July 2018, the report argues.
Based on a survey of 217 former participants in the Hamilton-Brantford area and 40 in-depth interviews, the report also found those receiving basic income had better mental and physical health, fewer hospital emergency visits, more stable housing and an improved sense of well-being.
“These findings show that despite its premature cancellation by an incoming government that reneged on its electoral promise to see the pilot through to its end, basic income recipients in the Hamilton-Brantford pilot site benefited in a range of ways,” the report says. “In this sense, the pilot was nothing short of successful.”
The findings are “particularly surprising” since most respondents received basic income for less than 17 months, including nearly one-third who got it for less than 13 months, it adds. The $150 million provincial experiment was expected to last three years.
The report, funded by the Hamilton Community Foundation, McMaster University and the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, acknowledges it can’t fill the research gap created when the project was cancelled.
“The results do, however, dispel some of the fears of the opponents of basic income including that it will lead to a wholesale abandonment of paid employment,” it says.
For those who were working before the pilot project, the basic income meant they could take chances on a new job or career, according to the researchers, who conducted a 70-question online survey from January to August last year.
Several respondents became self-employed. Others were able to leave a bad job and search for something better or upgrade their skills. And some used their basic income benefits to spend more time with family members or children who may have special needs, the report says.
Respondent James Collura says his $900 monthly basic income benefit gave him the courage to ditch a “dead-end,” part-time job as a bank teller in Hamilton for more “fulfilling” employment at a float-therapy business.
“With basic income, taking a leap from a secure job suddenly became something I was more comfortable with,” he says. (Hamilton Spectator)