LEAF’s Basic Income Project
Until all women and gender diverse people have equitable access to good quality and affordable education, health services, food, clothing, and housing, gender equality will not be achieved. Until all women and gender diverse people are not disproportionately poor, gender equality will not be achieved.
Gender discrimination intersects with other forms of oppression so that women living with multiple intersecting grounds of oppression are overwhelmingly poor: 36% of First Nations women (living off reserve); 33% of women who are visible minorities; 33% of women with disabilities; and 20% of women who identify as immigrants.
LEAF works hard to address poverty issues and to call attention to how discrimination against women serves to make women even more poor. We are currently exploring the potential of a basic income to address gender inequality from an intersectional lens.
Learn more about Basic Income and LEAF’s Basic Income Project below.
What is a Basic Income, and Why Now?
A basic income program is a social assistance program that ensures a minimum income level for all members of society, regardless of employment status.
The pandemic has brought long-existing racial and gender inequalities to the forefront, as women and gender diverse people have been forced onto the front lines of essential work – such as healthcare, caregiving, cleaning, and food provision. While the pandemic has highlighted how workers in these areas are essential to a healthy, functioning society, too many of these jobs are minimum wage and lack job security.
As a result of working for too little pay in part-time and insecure conditions, women, and particularly Black, Indigenous, women of colour, as well as women with disabilities and migrant women, experience poverty at much higher rates than the general population.
While some women have been thrust onto the frontlines, many others have been forced out of the labour force all together. In the first months of the pandemic, 63% of the jobs lost in Canada due to COVID-19 were held by women. Racialized women lost their jobs at even higher rates. And as the economy re-opened, women did not return to work at the same rates as men.
With unemployment reaching a record high due to COVID-19, many have rallied around the concept of introducing a basic income program to ensure that everyone can meet their basic needs and live with dignity.
What is LEAF’s Basic Income Project?
While LEAF, like many others, is interested in the potential for a basic income to address poverty and unemployment, there are important questions that need answering when it comes to basic income and gender equality.
One of the central promises of a basic income is its potential to allow individuals to leave unsatisfactory and unsafe jobs, or to better negotiate workplace improvements. As women and gender diverse people continue to work in these conditions, they may have the most to gain from a basic income. A basic income granted to every individual could also provide women and gender diverse people with a baseline of financial independence, making them less likely to stay in unhealthy relationships.
On the other hand, if basic income helps individuals leave jobs where they are undervalued – many of which are filled by women – it could mean many women will leave the labour market. But is women leaving the labour market really the outcome we want?
It also remains unclear if and how a basic income can address household and care work, for which more women and gender diverse people continue to bear disproportionate responsibility, regardless of income.
LEAF will work with the help of an expert Advisory Committee to assess the potential for basic income to address longstanding issues of gender and racial socioeconomic inequality. This work will help us develop an advocacy strategy – and make a meaningful contribution to the current discussions around basic income – that will centre and advance women and gender diverse people’s socioeconomic rights.
LEAF’s Basic Income Advisory Committee members are (in alphabetical order):
Gladys Ahovi, Elba Bendo, Marie-Pierre Boucher, Debbie Douglas, Margo Greenwood, Kerri Joffe, Elizabeth (Mandy) Kay-Raining Bird, Devorah Kobluk, Shalini Konanur, Kathleen Lahey, Shiva Mazrouei, Katherine Scott, and Wanda Wiegers.
The Chair of the Committee is Cee Strauss. Cee is also leading the project’s research, which will result in a research report that will be publicly available in Summer 2021.
To support our work to protect the equality rights of women, girls, and gender diverse people, please consider donating today.
LEAF’s Basic Income Project is supported by:
The Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and Toronto Foundation
The Canadian Bar Association’s Law for the Future Fund