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Basic income: Rethinking social policy

There is growing momentum in Canada for a government-supported basic income guarantee (BIG). Ensuring a minimum level of income is thought to provide a way to address income inequities and the resulting health, social and economic impacts they have. Edited by Alex Himelfarb and Trish Hennessy, this compendium of short essays considers the implications of basic income as a policy option to address income and social inequities. This collection explores whether basic income represents an alternative way of investing in social justice and equity.

The publication offers many varying perspectives on basic income that may be considered as part of policy implementation. These include the following:

  • Social and economic conditions for implementation of basic income and the impact on health and housing outcomes
  • How basic income contributes to poverty reduction, including effects on marginalized groups such as Indigenous peoples
  • Alignment of basic income with employment standards and family supports
  • Considerations related to essential labour market policies and other social service/public programs 
  • Historical controversies surrounding the idea of a BIG

This report refrains from offering a blanket endorsement of basic income, nor does it present a full argument against the strategy. Rather, it recognizes the potential for a BIG to help transform welfare policies, working to move BIG into the realm of realistic solutions to current policy problems regarding social inequities.

Use this resource to

  • facilitate a discussion about how basic income could impact social determinants of health including housing, food insecurity, employment conditions, income inequity and socioenvironmental conditions of living;
  • explore how basic income could additionally influence social inequities related to racism and colonialism;
  • support the work of poverty reduction groups with evidence-based perspectives on basic income; and
  • inform advocacy activities for basic income as a provincial and federal policy option to address health and social inequities.


Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ontario (2016). Basic income: Rethinking social policy. Alex Himelfarb & Trish Hennessy, eds. Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ontario Office: Toronto.

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Tags: Access to health services, Income inequality, Key concepts, Policy analysis, Socioeconomic status , Working conditions, Public Health Organization, Link

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