By Josie Simon, August 6 2023—
As Canadians grapple with a cost of living and housing crises, debates surrounding universal basic income (UBI) have resurfaced. UBI is a policy proposal that guarantees a minimum income for Canadians regardless of employment status. Its advocates argue it could serve as a solution to poverty, promote mental and physical wellness, and improve the post-secondary education experience for students. However, UBI critics claim it would harm the economy and encourage unemployment. In examining this concept we will consider the potential benefits of UBI for college and university students in Canada.
According to the 2021 Student Food Experience Survey, 56.8 per cent of Canadian university students face moderate or severe food insecurity, highlighting the harsh realities of financial constraints in pursuing higher education. Implementing UBI could provide a reliable source of income for students to cover necessary expenses such as rent and groceries. It could also motivate students from marginalized backgrounds, who face more significant financial obstructions than their counterparts, to consider post-secondary studies, thereby enhancing social mobility.
As education and living expenses continue to climb, post-secondary students face a daunting financial reality. A staggering 44 per cent of students report feeling moderate to significant emotional distress due to financial concerns. The upcoming term leaves almost half of students (46 per cent) anxious about their ability to cover tuition fees, and 43 per cent worried about meeting housing expenses. This financial pressure can severely affect students’ academic performance and mental health, leading many to struggle to focus on their studies or even drop out altogether. UBI could provide the financial safety net to cushion this burden and promote mental wellness.
UBI may also increase competition in the job market. By providing financial security, students could focus more on their studies and participate in extracurricular opportunities such as co-op programs. These experiences offer essential training and skills that employers highly regard. In addition, with less financial pressure, students may pursue other opportunities such as volunteer work and study-abroad programs, further developing their professional capabilities and enhancing their long-term employability.
In an era where economic disparities and financial obstacles limit the dreams of countless Canadian students, UBI emerges as a beacon of hope. By guaranteeing a minimum income regardless of employment status, UBI can transform the post-secondary experience by reducing student stress and fostering a generation of highly skilled and competitive graduates. As the country debates this progressive policy, let us envision a future where UBI uplifts students, empowers their ambitions and paves the way for an inclusive and prosperous Canada.
This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.