Canada’s prior experiment with a BIG [(Basic Income Guarantee)], the Mincome experiment in Manitoba in the 1970s, found that a BIG did not cause people to stop working — with two important exceptions. The first was women with infants at home, who effectively used the BIG to purchase maternity leave. We should expect a different response from women in modern-day Canada, where maternity leave benefits are much more extensive. But where child care and other supports for working parents are insufficient, we may see responses to a BIG that will show us those cracks in the system.
The other group whose employment levels decreased under Mincome was teenage boys. A closer look reveals that with a basic income guarantee, male high school students were more likely to make the decision to stay in school until graduation. Given the Ontario government’s aim of increasing graduation rates and the need for a highly educated population, it will be important to understand how people’s labour market decisions interact with other important decisions, like the decision to improve their skills and buy a better long-term future for themselves and their families.