Finland Is Ending Its Universal Basic Income Scheme

REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Amy Balog London-based writer and journalist
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The Finnish government is not going to extend a two-year trial that has paid 2,000 unemployed people a basic income of €560 ($685) per month.

The pilot scheme began in January 2017 and is now set to expire at the end of this year. The 2,000 participants were randomly selected to receive the monthly payments even after they found employment.

“The eagerness of the government is evaporating. They rejected extra funding [for it],” said Olli Kangas, a researcher at the Finnish government agency Social Insurance Institution (Kela), and one of the experiment’s designers.

Universal basic income is seen by its supporters as a safety net that would encourage unemployed people to get at least temporary jobs. It is believed that it could potentially improve mobility within the labor market by providing people with an income between contracts.

Finland is the first European country to have seriously considered paying its citizens an unconditional basic income and subsequently conducted a scheme of this kind. However, the government is now looking into other ways of reforming the country’s existing welfare system.”

“There is a problem with young people lacking secondary education, and reports of those guys not seeking work,” Heikki Hiilamo, a professor of social policy at the University of Helsinki said. “There is a fear that with basic income they would just stay at home and play computer games.”

A number of billionaire entrepreneurs have expressed an interest in the concept of a universal basic income, arguing that job insecurity cannot be prevented amid the growing trend towards automation. Some of the idea’s proponents are Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Elon Musk of Tesla and Space X and Richard Branson of the Virgin Group.

Sam Altman, president of the start-up accelerator Y Combinator is currently planning another basic income experiment. The aim is to randomly select 3,000 individuals in two US states, 1,000 of whom will receive $1,000 per month for three to five years. The use of these payments will be closely monitored, and recipients’ spending habits will be compared with those who do not receive the basic income.

In 2016, Swiss voters overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to introduce an unconditional basic income for all Swiss citizens. The suggestion was to pay every adult 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,558) per month, while every child was going to receive 625 Swiss francs ($635).