Guaranteed minimum income: a false good idea

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The canadian Press
The minister of Employment and social Solidarity, François Blais, promises to get out of 100 000 people out of poverty.

It sometimes happens that one has false good ideas. Even when we are well intentioned. And often because the reality is more complex as you would like.

The minister of Employment and social Solidarity, François Blais, has been poorly received Tuesday the report of the committee of experts it had established to look into the idea of a guaranteed minimum income in Quebec, judging it to be ” quite confusing “, “difficult to follow” and full of ” contradictions.” The surprise of the minister itself was amazing — especially on the part of someone who has already written a book university on the topic — when you know that the three economists are essentially arrived at the same findings that most of the experts who had examined the question before them.


It is necessary to admit that the idea of a universal minimum income has everything to please. He is to pay each citizen, rich or poor, have sufficient income to cover its basic needs. In this way, not only ensures that nobody is left with less than the bare minimum, but it also governs all sorts of other problems, such as financial assistance for education, support to workers who lose their jobs because of the robots or the recognition of the economic contribution of parents who stay at home, caregivers and other volunteers.


36 billion for a version at a discount


It can be seen that the main obstacle to the adoption of such a wage citizen universal would be cost prohibitive, even if it would simplify the social nets of governments, and the richest, who would receive their cheques as the other, could also pay more tax. This is not a coincidence that no government has ever dared to embark on this adventure.


And these pilot projects in Finland, the netherlands and even in Ontario ? ask some of them. In fact, these experiments are not intended to pay all a universal minimum income. Rather, it is to replace the multitude of assistance programs addressing a sub-group of the population, namely the poor, through the payment of a single income meant to ensure the minimum.


In 2015, in Québec, the government contributed about $ 30 billion in various income support measures, of which slightly more than a third (11 billion) came from Quebec and the rest of Ottawa. This allows, for example, to give a little less than 9400 $ per year for a single person to trial without constraint to employment, which remains far from the market basket measure (MBM) designed to estimate the basic needs, which is $ 17 716 $. The committee of experts of the minister Blais has calculated that, even if one wanted only to leave unchanged the benefits to the poor and pay all the other Quebecers 18 years of age and more a salary citizen 5832 $ per year, it would cost already $ 36 billion more.


Not so bad, finally


The committee has concluded logically that it would be better to continue to concentrate the financial effort on those who need it the most. In long passages of his report, that some wanted to see confused, he tried to take stock of the current system, in particular according to the criteria of equity, efficiency and work incentives.


The chance has wanted that experts from McGill University launched the same day a book on the same subject, and which comes to roughly the same conclusions. Based on several unpublished data, the research of professor Axel Van den Berg and his team conclude that Quebec has generally been more successful than others in North America to curb the rise of inequality and to reduce poverty. It would benchmark itself against the best european countries in terms of households with children, particularly when parents have work.


This success is notably attributable to the greater generosity of its social programs, as well as measures encouraging employment, such as bonuses at work, to social insurance, but also the quebec network of subsidized childcare.


The picture is much less brilliant for single people and households without children. Also, the committee proposes to increase unpeu their benefits, relaxing certain rules and raise a billion resources devoted to the work premium.


The opposition parties and advocacy groups of the most disadvantaged are even more dissatisfied that the minister Blais. Some require that we cease the blackmail the return to employment and that it goes back, minimally the financial assistance at the level of the MPC. It also calls for the early recovery of the minimum wage to $ 15 per hour, have another idea in vogue in North America, as many experts believe, ill-adapted to the quebec reality and even counter-productive for the poor.


Anyway, most of these new measures will require additional budgetary funding. The minister of Finance, Carlos Leitão, must make the point on Tuesday on the financing of the future national strategy of his colleague, François Blais, who promises to get out of 100 000 people out of poverty. It is expected that Mr. Leitão also benefits from his economic update to announce tax cuts of a billion.

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