Women's Work and a Guaranteed Income
Shelley A.M. Gavigan & Dorothy E. Chunn, eds., The Legal Tender of Gender: Welfare, Law and the Regulation of Women's Poverty (Oxford: Hart Publishing, 2010) 249-275
Posted: 7 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2010
The idea of a guaranteed income has been a topic of some currency for a number of decades within the Canadian feminist community. In 1970 the Royal Commission on the Status of Women recommended payment of a guaranteed annual income by the federal government to the head of all one-parent families as one way to address women's persistent poverty. More recently, a number of feminist academics and activists have issued clear calls for implementation of a 'guaranteed adequate income" or guaranteed liveable income.
The feminist community is not of one mind on the call for a guaranteed income. Opposition to this idea also has a strong heritage in Canadian feminist thought, particularly in response to the concrete guaranteed income proposals that have issued from more mainstream or right-of-centre organizations over the past 30 plus years. The discussion between feminists surrounding this issue needs to become an important part of the overall debate. Feminist appreciation of the specific income security needs of women, and of particular groups of women, has much to add to the consideration of guaranteed income proposals. Feminist analyses of marriage, of employment, and of citizenship, for example lend valuable and considerable insight into the dynamics and issues relevant to income security reform.
This discussion in this chapter falls into several distinct parts. Section II provides a brief reminder of the disproportionate poverty Canadian women experience and of some of the critical features of women's reliance on current provincial social assistance (welfare) systems. Section III is an overview of the idea of a guaranteed income, as understood by this analysis. Section IV sets out the advantages and disadvantages of guaranteed income proposals in relation to women, with a specific focus on the issue of work and its place in welfare reform politics from a feminist perspective. Finally, section V provides an assessment of some aspects of the practical viability of a guaranteed income, and concludes with articulation of a particular understanding of guaranteed income proposals that, while sure not to please the strongest advocates, nonetheless lays claim to what the author believes is most progressive and powerful about the notion of a guaranteed income.
Keywords: Canada, Women, Work, Guaranteed Income, Welfare, Social policy, Law and society
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