Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security
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Precarious Bodies at Work: Stabilizing Lives through Basic Income Security. Ernie Lightman, PhD & Andrea Vick, PhD Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto. Funding for this project is provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Two main purposes.

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Precarious Bodies at Work: Stabilizing Lives through Basic Income Security

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Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

Precarious Bodies at Work:Stabilizing Lives through Basic Income Security

Ernie Lightman, PhD & Andrea Vick, PhD

Faculty of Social Work,

University of Toronto


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

Funding for this project is provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada


Two main purposes

Two main purposes

  • To show an alternate path towards the goals of a BI; and

  • To illustrate using a case example of episodic disability in Canada


Different paths to a bi

Different Paths to a BI

  • Typically approach on a Universal Basis in most countries

  • Canada, perhaps, has taken a different path

    • Good or bad???


Universal approach

Universal approach

  • Demogrants (on spending side)

  • Negative Income Tax (on taxation side)

  • This occupies most of the literature

  • Though taxation has been much less addressed


A different approach in canada

A different approach in Canada

  • A Sectoral Approach

  • Through specific programs to specific groups

  • Historically, 1945, a BI grant to all children (mothers)

  • 1949, same thing to seniors

    • Better on adequacy

  • Later (1980’s) there were pullbacks/targeting


Today in canada

Today in Canada

  • Seniors: Not badly done

  • Single mothers: On the right path

  • People with disabilities: Very little done

  • After these 3 groups, mainly leaves single employables

    • Treated differently


In principle

In principle

  • If we could cover every/most group, the overall outcome would be the same as with a demogrant

    • Would differ in detail and operation but the final result would be a BI for everyone

  • Can discuss whether this approach is better or worse/ more or less efficient, etc etc

    • But it is more realistic in the Canadian context


Example a basic income for workers with episodic disabilities

Example: A Basic Income for Workers with Episodic Disabilities

  • Persons with episodic disabilities, particularly women, are marginalized in the Canadian labour force

  • Unpredictable cycling into and out of the workforce

  • Fluctuating health trajectories

    - Barriers associated with a precarious job culture

  • Face significant barriers to employment


Episodic disabilities

Episodic Disabilities

  • Physical and mental health conditions marked by recurrent, unpredictable, fluctuating periods of health and illness

  • Multiple sclerosis

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Multiple chemical/Environmental Sensitivities

  • Chronic pain syndromes

  • Musculoskeletal conditions

  • Psychiatric conditions


Methodology

Methodology

  • Social Assistance in the New Economy Project (SANE) 2002-2007

  • Secondary analysis of 30 longitudinal, semi-structured qualitative interviews

  • Modified, thematic analysis combining phenomenology and grounded theory


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

Participants

  • 13 participants (8 women, 5 men), 30-55 years of age

  • Cycle on and off Ontario Works (short-term ‘emergency’ assistance

  • Denied eligibility for Ontario Disability Support Program (long-term support)

  • Physical conditions (Cardiac disease, Hepatitis C, Lung Cancer, Degenerative Disks, Diabetes, Arthritis, Bulimia, MSK)

  • Depression (Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, SAD)


Barriers to employment and income security

Barriers to Employment and Income Security

A ‘Precarious’ Embodiment

  • Shifts in bodily functioning, pain, fatigue, energy levels, side effects of medication

  • Fear of leaving stable refuge of income security programs because of “risky” health trajectory

  • Organization and nature of precarious jobs may aggravate bodily conditions


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

The main barrier for me finding work is my dissociative disorder. I black out. Sometimes it’s only ten or twenty minutes. . . So there’s no consistency for me to work on a full or part-time basis. I’m not reliable. . . If I was an employer, I wouldn’t hire me.


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

My biggest barrier getting a job is my seasonal affective disorder. Last year I stayed home and in summer months, I get better. Another barrier is my bulimia. I gained a lot of weight and it has affected my health. I also have arthritis. There have been times that I got a job but wasn’t able to keep it cause I would get sick in different ways.


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

I have depression, arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, trouble with my back and neck, and my memory is bad. I haven’t always been on welfare. I haven’t completely got off because I don’t know if I’m going to be capable of working steady. That’s my worry.


The embodiment of work

The Embodiment of Work

  • Social construction and organization of ‘work’

  • Ableist ideals: The ‘normative worker/body’

  • Precarious work culture values

  • Perceived and actual discrimination


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

Existing Programmatic Barriers

  • Individual rehabilitation and rapid labour market (re)entry

  • Lack of investment in longer-term education, skills training, and post-employment resources

  • Absence of flexible job accommodations

  • Neglects precarious labour market conditions


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

The Participation Agreement was something shoved in front of me and I signed. There was no discussion of a plan towards employment. Ontario Works won’t help me get a job. They don’t really work with people to get them back on their feet.


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

Ontario Works set me up with training courses. I went to a course at Job Start and I got three jobs through them. . . But they send you to places that are in receivership or downsizing. That’s what happened to me and I was well then. So there’s no security.


Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

The Rhetoric of Income Support Policies

  • Classification as either entirely sick/well, able/disabled, un/employable, un/deserving

  • Conflicts with fluctuating ‘lived realities’

  • ‘Not disabled enough’ for long-term support

    -Absence of partial benefits


A basic income for episodically disabled workers

A Basic Income for Episodically Disabled Workers

  • Focus on ‘severe’ and ‘prolonged’ disabilities

  • Refundable Disability Tax Credit (RDTC)

  • Canada Pension Plan-Disability (CPP-D)

  • Tiered System (Caledon): BI as long-term support for those not expected to work

  • Partial work capacity (Some OECD countries)


  • Precarious bodies at work stabilizing lives through basic income security

    • BI moves beyond discretionary welfare model, divisive classifications, ableist work standards

    • Eases physical and psychological vulnerability

    • Combine with robust disability supports and improved labour market access


    Return to sectoral approach

    Return to Sectoral Approach

    • Advantages

      • Potentially feasible; might be attained

      • Incrementalism is realistic in existing climate

      • Might ‘sneak under the radar’ of political opposition to a BI

      • Flexible; can accommodate different groups’ needs in different ways


    But many disadvantages

    But many disadvantages

    • Plays one group against the other

      • Hierarchies of deservedness

    • Uneven coverage

      • Gaps that some groups/individuals will fall through

      • Different speeds to implementation

      • Different levels and kinds of coverage

    • Hard to negotiate complex rules, procedures

    • Breaks notions of solidarity


    Overall

    Overall

    • In principle, Universalism is likely preferred

    • But we don’t need to choose

    • We can argue for accelerated incrementalism at the same time as we fight for universalism

      • As long as the struggle for a BI covering people with episodic disabilities does not set back the struggles of others


    Final word

    Final word

    • In Canada, incrementalism/sectoral approach is potentially on the table

      • Has the advantage of being potentially attainable

    • Do we go for it and perhaps set back the battle for a universal approach???


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