Basic income would give women choices – Opinion/Readers’ Letters – Re: Guaranteed income won’t help women, Opinion, April 23

I have two words for Professor Kathleen Lahey: class privilege. The women who would benefit most from basic income are the poorest and most marginalized among us, with and without children, often members of racialized groups.

Some are unable to work in paid employment. Others work in part-time, precarious, poorly paid, often exploitive conditions, including some of the nannies and cleaners who work in the homes of professional women.

Why do we continue to insist that paid employment be the primary source of purpose and meaning in our lives? Perhaps the doggedness with which we continue to promote the protestant work ethic for those who would benefit most from basic income reflects the widely held and unfounded suspicion among the better-off that those who live in poverty are really just lazy and have only themselves to blame for their misery.

And where exactly are those decent jobs that can “finance lifelong economic security?”

Of course we need equal pay for women. Of course we need affordable, flexible child care. We need a renewed social safety net, high-quality jobs and more equitable access to higher education.

Implementing a basic income could be the start of a new political conversation about social justice. In the meantime, an adequate basic income will give the most marginalized women more choice: more choice about how to spend their valuable time, more choice about leaving exploitive labour conditions, more choice about leaving abusive relationships.

For me, feminism is all about giving women — all women, but especially those with the fewest options — more choice.

Elaine Power, associate professor of kinesiology and health studies, Queen’s University, Kingston


No one can deny the need for accessible child and elder care programs to provide women who need it with a real choice between caregiving of all kinds and paid labour. This is true whether or not they are “highly educated, indigenous, racialized, refugee or immigrant women.”

But for women who live on low incomes, that requires a basic income as well as accessible child care.

It’s important to acknowledge first that not all women need such access. Some have no children, others grown children, still others household members who look after their children or children in school all day enabling them to work from home. But all women need money.

Equally important, a quick look at the current labour market shows a continuing decrease in full-time jobs with benefits. Even if women did have a fair share of jobs at equal pay levels, millions of women will be faced, as now, with precarious jobs at minimum wage, usually part-time with no benefits.

Although equality for women in the job market is a major objective to be pursued vigorously, we also need to move past treating paid labour as the sine qua non of social worth, gender equality, the essence of a person’s identity or the only means of subsistence apart from our mean-spirited, stingy and degrading social assistance programs.

Basic income delivered individually and not to households can also provide women the wherewithal to leave abusive relationships and take their children with them.

No single policy can or will address all social ills. Accessible child care, yes, absolutely, but basic income as well. Both are needed to enable choice, autonomy and a measure of financial security for all women.

Toni Pickard, co-ordinator, Kingston Action Group for a Basic Income Guarantee

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