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Most Canadians, Brits Support Basic Income, But Americans Don’t: Poll

It's seen as a way to tackle poverty with the rise of automation.

Universal basic income appears to be an idea Canadians can rally behind.

The policy proposal has been floated in recent years as a way to reduce poverty. The government-instituted program would work by providing citizens with a guaranteed payment that ensures a minimum level of income for all, regardless of employment status. It helps people pay for basic necessities by ensuring each adults receives a specific amount of money.

A new survey by Gallup and Northeastern University found three-fourths (75 per cent) of Canadians backed the idea as a way to support people at a time when artificial intelligence is taking over over jobs held by humans. The findings published Monday found that around the same number of British respondents (77 per cent) also agreed with the concept.

The same could not be said for Americans. Less than half of those asked (43 per cent) in the U.S. expressed support for the idea.

Gallup/Northeastern University

However, there was some common ground across the three countries. The majority of residents polled in Canada, the U.K. and the U.S. said they support a tax on technology companies to fund the payments.

The survey conducted online featured responses from 4,394 Americans, 3,049 Canadians and 3,208 Brits.

Basic income has been promoted heavily by Andrew Yang, a U.S. tech entrepreneur who is running for the Democratic nomination in the U.S. presidential race.

On his website, Yang said a third of American workers could lose their jobs to new technologies in the next 12 years. That’s why he’s made his UBI proposal a major pillar of his presidential campaign, which would see Americans paid US$1,000 ($1,330) per month as a way to mitigate the rise in automation.

“To avoid an unprecedented crisis, we’re going to have to find a new solution unlike anything we’ve done before,” the Yang 2020 website said.

Billionaire entrepreneurs Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk and Richard Branson have also voiced their support for the idea.

The project was also partly tested out in Canada.

In 2018, the newly-elected Ontario government revealed it was scrapping the Basic Income Pilot Project, one year into a three-year experiment. The Progressive Conservative government argued the program’s “extraordinary cost” would require an increase in the HST from 13 to 20 per cent in order to fund it across Ontario.

“We have a broken social service system,” former social services minister Lisa MacLeod said at the time. “A research project that helps less than four thousand people is not the answer and provides no hope to the nearly two million Ontarians who are trapped in the cycle of poverty.”

Getty Images

The project was launched in 2017 as an alternate way of providing social help. Around 4,000 participants between the ages of 18 and 64 were involved in the pilot, which has since come to an end.

The province launched the initiative as a way “to test a growing view at home and abroad that basic income could provide a new approach to reducing poverty in a sustainable way,” the previous Liberal government said.

Elsewhere, Finland introduced a basic income project in 2016 that gave residents a monthly stipend of €560 ($815) for a two-year period with no strings attached.

Tuomas Muraja was one of the participants in the project and he compared it to winning the lottery.

“When you feel free you are creative, and when you are creative you are productive, and that helps the whole of society,” he told HuffPost earlier this year.

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