Senior Tory Hugh Segal was in the GTA this week advocating for a guaranteed minimum income. With an election underway you’d think we’d be all over this. Kinda weird, since a guaranteed minimum income “…could pretty much eliminate poverty entirely.” With a bit of a push?
image: bystanders help motorist in bad conditions – NARA via Wikimedia Commons
A panel discussion from TVO of where Canada’s middle class is at. Looks like wage stagnation and the death of the middle class is a little overstated but there’s genuine concern about where things are going.
We liked the solutions section of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives report into Ontario’s rising gender pay gap. It made us feel better that there are things that can be done about this issue.
A growing concern. Ontario’s gender pay gap 36-page .pdf file
Most advocates of guaranteed national minimum incomes argue in favour of such a tool as a direct way to combat the ill effects of poverty and social difficulty in complicated economic environments. Business arguments in favour of minimum incomes are perhaps more important in certain places when it comes to seeing them enacted. We were really intrigued to come across a piece at Falkvinge & Co. sensibly advocating for minimum income from the point of view of high technology management and digital entrepreneurship in a dangerous, fast-moving future economy. That economy will feature serious insecurity for working people while being rich in opportunities and rewards for innovative behaviour in new environments. The country, city or region that best nurtures the dynamic players in the risky new world will be the ones to thrive. How best to do that?
Falkvinge.net is as close as you can get to the forward-most positions of the new economy. Perspectives and opinions there are edgy and sensible. How will a new Bill Gates evolve if she is trapped in a dead end job in the suburbs, wasting all her time and energy getting to and from insecure work that barely pays for a minimum dignity of life? How will the rest of us find our way as well? A guaranteed minimal income could help organize the most powerful aspects of the future economic life of places willing to adopt one. This argument is pure business: pure self-interest of a radical kind.
What a contrast to the embarrassing words of those who fight increased minimum wages in North America, let alone a guaranteed universal income, on the basis they would hurt business or reduce personal incentive to participate in the economy. This piece makes a case for a guaranteed income as a powerful tool that acknowledges reality and supports high quality entrepreneurship in a decentralized, increasingly open source world . This profoundly reverses opinions like those of TV businessman Kevin O’Leary. The latter’s recent cranky assertion that global poverty and the spectacles of wealth will somehow inspire future entrepreneurship seems quite mentally ill when read next to material such as this:
Mothers and children in poverty. What a topic for British Columbia, now “leading” the country in child poverty. Hopefully we won’t just look to BC for high numbers but solutions to the problem, and soon. If there is one place to get social conditions right it is with children – how’s that for a statement of the obvious? For this item a writer headed down to south Langara to learn from a single mom there.
No Easy Numbers for Single Mom Poverty. BC figures show sharp fall in their median income. But variable data hides the real story. The Tyee
image: Joaquim Alves Gaspar via Wikimedia Commons
For the United States: the Living Wage Calculator has been whirring away online generating data for every county in the United States since 2004. Cost of living information is fed into the calculator to generate a realistic wage that will keep workers and their family members out of poverty. Quick and easy to use.
Living Wage Calculator – Poverty in America/MIT
For Canada: Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives provides a calculation method for living wages in Canada as a technical appendix to an update of a major report on living wages in Metro Vancouver. Using this method involves downloading a .pdf file and a spreadsheet file and then inputting data for the community you are interested in. Not as quick and easy to use but good to have.
Working for a Living Wage: 2013 26-page .pdf file from CCPA
Less keen on the homework involved in using the CCPA method we chose two Chicagoland counties from the MIT/Poverty in America calculator we thought would compare roughly with the Greater Toronto Area. The hourly wage range indicated by the calculator as needed to keep workers and children out of poverty is from just over ten dollars for a single worker to over thirty dollars for a single worker with three children. Workers with combinations of partners and children required hourly wage rates around the twenty dollar mark to maintain themselves above poverty levels.
The point of both tools is to demonstrate in a real world way that minimum wages are too low to keep working people out of poverty.
A nice use of Twitter by Citizens for Public Justice last week. A simple graphic tells us that In 1981 in Canada there was a thirty three percent shortfall between average actual poor family income and the generally accepted poverty line. Pretty much the same after adjustment for the passage of time as right now. That’s over a thousand dollars a month and what we at suburban-poverty.com call a punch in the stomache.
Canadian poverty has been traditionally defined by income. What would be the findings if financial assets and net worth were taken into the measurement of poverty alongside tools like the low income cut off or LICO?
Asset poverty is a relatively new concept in Canada. An academic paper published in December 2013 undertook to create a national threshold for this phenomenon in Canada. The researchers found that this more complex look at the security of Canadians indicates many of us are asset poor and would be in difficulty quickly if faced with disruption or reduction of income. Pursuing an asset poverty threshold in fact reveals a rather dire incidence of insecure living in this country. Page ten of the report states:
“…1 in 2 Canadian families lack sufficient financial assets to survive at the LICO line for 3 months”.
With this measuring device, it would seem that insecure living is actually a social norm in Canada.
Definition and measurement of asset poverty in Canada
link to abstract and 24-page .pdf file
Paper by David W. Rothwell, McGill University & Robert Haveman, University of Wisconsin
image: RL Hyde via Wikimedia Commons
Infographics are fantastic things. They function like road maps to keep us from becoming lost in complex issues. Citizens for Public Justice whipped one up last year allowing Canadians to make a speedy and direct comparison of the social welfare system with its possible replacement: a guaranteed income. The GLI or Guaranteed Liveable Income emerges right away as a cheaper and less nasty way for Canadians to look out for those in social difficulty. The immediate cost of a GLI is more than balanced out by the reduction in costs accrued to society for the impact of crime, poor health and poor mental health incurred by social difficulty. Not to mention the bureaucracy and poor efficacy of current social welfare programs. We’re talking about billions of dollars and more importantly, the bedrock quality of life here.