Universal Basic Income (UBI) is a form of social security in which every citizen is afforded an unconditional sum of money, typically enough to provide themselves with basic needs. Proponents argue that it would eliminate poverty, increase economic growth, and reduce the bureaucracy of welfare systems. Critics claim UBI would decrease labor participation and cause major inflation.
As labor forces are threatened by mass unemployment as a result of increasing mechanization, many first-world nations have begun to flirt with the implementation of UBI. Tesla Motors CEO and futurism icon Elon Musk told CNBC in a November 2016 interview that there is a “pretty good chance” that developed nations will adopt UBI as mechanization-induced unemployment surges. A 2014 Pew Research study showed a near 50-50 split among technological and economic experts over whether advancing technology will led to a net increase, or decrease, in jobs.
Less-developed nations, including India and Kenya, are experimenting with UBI. Arvind Subramanian, chief economic advisor to the Indian government, told the Times of India that, “People are dragged into poverty due to droughts, declining agriculture opportunities, disease, and so on.” He called UBI a “safety net” that could replace the thousand-plus poverty-assistance programs that already exist in India.
Prince Edward Island lawmakers follow in the footsteps of Finland, the city of Utrecht in The Netherlands, and their fellow Canadian province of Ontario, in adopting a UBI pilot program.
Not everyone is in favor of UBI. A Swiss referendum on UBI was rejected by nearly 80 percent of the population. Had the bill passed, every Swiss citizen would have received a monthly sum of 2,500 Swiss francs (about $2,460).
Prince Edward Island is Canada’s smallest province, both by size and population. It also has Canada’s lowest per-capita GDP. Its three largest industries are agriculture, fishing, and tourism.