Finland Will Launch Basic Income Pilot Program
The concept of a “basic income” style welfare program has been talked about for years. There are a number of variations, but it’s based on a pretty simple concept–we can replace most of the current welfare benefits given by a country by instead guaranteeing everyone a set amount of money per month. If people want to work more to add on to it, they can, if they choose not to or are unable to, that is the money they live with. The concept of a basic income has received both criticism and praise from individuals on almost every part of the political spectrum. But as much as a basic income program has been talked about, no one has really given it a serious try, until now. Finland is launching an experiment to put the basic income program to a test.
The government will essentially select 2,000 individuals who are already receiving some version of unemployment benefits. They will be given roughly $630 in American dollars each month; a control group will remain on their existing unemployment benefits. This program will take place sometime in the next few years, and money is being set aside in the budget specifically for this purpose.
Finland’s experiment with a basic income is being called historic, and the first of its kind. That’s mostly true, although basic income experiments are gaining ground elsewhere as well. While Switzerland rejected a referendum that would test a similar program, the city of Utrecht, Netherlands is starting an experiment in January, and a private organization called Y Combinator is running a pilot program in Oakland, California. Still, Finland’s experiment appears to be the broadest currently in the works.
There are a lot of outcomes that people who support a basic income program are hoping to see happen. For one, there are hopes that it will reduce unemployment rates, because it will allow people who are currently on unemployment benefits to take on low-paying, seasonal, or part-time work without fear of losing those benefits. There are also hopes of long term benefits. According to NESTA, a UK-based science and technology think-tank quoted in Forbes:
A basic income can provide a safety net for people wishing to retrain, which is worth considering given the massive technological changes that we anticipate in the decades ahead. It can enable citizens to make greater unpaid contributions to their communities, strengthening the fabric of social relations and reduce the burden of professional care. And the reduction in poverty brought about by a basic income can provide children with a much better start to life.
Right now though, all of these hopes are just theories–no one knows exactly how a basic income will play out in practice. That’s why all eyes will be on Finland’s experiment.