Although the value of our time on Earth is equally priceless to us all, time alone cannot accurately measure the value of all work. The nature of the work itself must also be considered. Certainly, work that is extremely dangerous, which could seriously injure or shorten the life of the worker, should earn a premium. Also work that is extremely difficult, stressful or unpleasant either physically, mentally or emotionally deserves a higher reward. Talent, skill and the social importance of the work must also be factored in.
The key to rewarding identical working hours unequally is the well-established concept of paid time-off. Statutory holidays, sick days, and annual vacations are all examples of future income benefits earned through current work. Additional paid rest days could be used in the same way to reward difficult, dangerous or socially important work without sacrificing the equal value of each and every hour.
Also, when determining a basic income for all, individual need must be considered. A person with a disability who is unable to work, or families with children, will have a greater financial need than non-disabled individuals or people without children to support. Additional paid hours must be available to compensate special needs.
There are four components in the income system that we propose. Income = Life + Need + Work + Rest
The Life component is simply an endowment (or basic income) that is given to all adults 21 years of age or older. The value of the endowment would equal 25% of the average number of hours that Canadian full-time employees work each week. Currently the national full-time average is 40 hours per week, so the endowment amount would be set to 10 hours per week. If the average number of hours worked dropped to just 32 hours per week, the endowment amount would also drop to just 8 hours per week. The annual amount of the endowment would be based on 52 weeks per year.
The Need component is added to the Life component when the needs of the recipients increase. Parents, seniors and persons with disabilities would receive additional Need benefits. The Need rate would range from 0% to 200% of the Life amount. At the maximum Need rate, a person would receive 2 times the Life amount for their special needs, plus the regular Life amount, for a total of 3 times the Life amount alone. Canadians would receive the Need component for 52 weeks of the year, but its value would be modified if their level of need changed significantly throughout the year.
The Work component is simply the number of hours a person works annually. One hour of socially-productive labour creates one hour of new money.
The Rest component is a range of paid time-off rates that reward workers who perform more dangerous, difficult or socially important tasks. Talent and skill is honoured as well. The minimum Rest amount for all workers would be 20% of the actual hours worked. Depending upon public opinion, the maximum Rest amount could be set between 100% and 300% of the actual hours worked (up to the maximum annual limit of 8,760 hours per individual).
A range of paid time-off rates for all careers could be determined nationally by a public agency comprised of workers and industry representatives. Specific rates (within that range) could be determined locally by supply and demand. Local feedback would influence the national agency's rate and policy decisions. A shortage of skilled workers in a particular job category would pressure the agency to increase the paid time-off range for that occupation. A surplus of skilled workers would have the opposite effect. If consumer demand for a product or service declined, employers and workers might have to consider renegotiating the variable rates in order to lower prices. Competition between employers might also influence the local rates. The table below suggests a possible range for the variables.
The final table combines the four components together to show total annual incomes when the Need rate is 0%. A higher Need rate would increase the annual totals shown here (see the Need example above).