The government of Canada has come up with an official estimate for how much it would cost to implement a guaranteed minimum income.
The number is $76 billion a year, according to a report by the parliamentary budget officer.
However, not all of that would be new spending. The federal government already puts about $32.9 billion a year toward financial-support programs that would likely come under the umbrella of a guaranteed minimum income. And so the annual gap in funding that Canada would need to cover to pay for a guaranteed minimum income is estimated to stand at about $43.1 billion.
The parliamentary budget officer arrived at these figures by calculating that some 7.5 million people would receive the annual payout. Individuals would get $16,989 and couples who form a single household would receive $24,027.
The report was drafted in response to a small-scale trial of a guaranteed minimum income that’s underway in Ontario.
With a guaranteed minimum income, every Canadian citizen whose working income falls below a certain threshold would receive an annual amount from the federal government, no strings attached. (Note that a guaranteed minimum income is slightly different from a universal basic income, which operates in a similar fashion but without an income ceiling on eligibility.)
The idea behind a guaranteed minimum income is that, by ensuring every citizen is provided with just enough to cover bare necessities like food and shelter, you improve their health, alleviate stress, and, contrary to what many might believe, you do not discourage the majority of recipients from seeking meaningful employment. It’s about freeing people living in poverty from the constant pressures that come with being poor, helping people get onto the bottom rung of the economic ladder, and then letting them climb on their own from there.
The trial in Ontario began last summer and will last three years.
The concepts of a universal basic income have gained attention in recent years with the help of vocal support from notable entrepreneurs like Tesla and Space X founder Elon Musk, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and Virgin Group founder Richard Branson, among others.
In one way or another, all of them have said that as a result of technological innovation and advances in artificial intelligence, so many people will be pushed out of the jobs for which they were trained that a universal basic income will be required to prevent massive increases in poverty and social unrest.
“There is a pretty good chance we end up with a universal basic income, or something like that, due to automation,” Musk told CNBC in 2016. “I am not sure what else one would do. I think that is what would happen.”
A 2016 analysis by the Globe and Mail that relied on data supplied by the Brookfield Institute found that no less than 42 percent of Canadian workers are at a “high risk” of their professions disappearing within the next 20 years.
That report makes clear that labor industries—truck drivers, cashiers, and manufactures, for example—will almost certainly be affected. But it also emphasizes those sectors are not where the impacts of automation are likely to end.
For accountants, related clerks, and bookkeepers, the odds that technology will put them out of work within two decades are 98 percent, the Globe reported. For administrative assistants and officers, they were 96 percent, and for agriculture and fish-product inspectors, they were 94 percent.
The analysis examined the probability of automation for 498 occupations. You can find the complete list as well as each field’s share of the Canadian labor at the Globe and Mail’s website.