Finnish basic income trial: creates happiness, but not jobs

Finland's basic income trial boosts happiness but not employment

The results showed 44 percent of the recipients worked, but the figure is only one percent more than that of those in the comparison group.

It said Friday that "it was not yet possible to draw any firm conclusions" from the experiment, where about 2,000 randomly selected, unemployed people got tax-free income of 560 euros ($636) a month with no questions asked.

The Finnish experiment, conducted in 2017 and 2018 by Kela, the country's social insurance institution, was extremely important for world policy makers looking at variations of unconditional income as a way to offset job losses brought on by technological change.

Proponents of basic income believe that it can help empower people to start new businesses as it serves as a safety net, eliminating poverty traps. The Greens would like to see basic income as part of the FInnish social security reform.

The results of the program were that although unemployment among this group did not decrease, recipients reported feeling happier and less stressed.

With its road-testing of a basic income, the government wanted to find out whether recipients would still be willing to take on part-time or freelance work.

That was not the case.

A group of randomly selected Finns said knowing they were being paid the universal basic income relieved some of the stress in their lives. "OK, psychologically yes, but financially - not so much".

However, Miska Simanainen, a researcher at the Kela, said that he does not consider the project to have "failed". From his point of view, "this is not a failure or success - it is a fact, and [gives us] new information that we did not have before this experiment".

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The majority of Finnish political parties in the current parliament do not support basic income as defined for the test.

On Thursday, Sipila's Centre Party proposed a welfare model in which only the poor could claim the basic income, with sanctions if they reject a job offer.

Pirkko Mattila, Finnish minister for social affairs and health, said on Friday that the results will be used for the planned overhaul of the Finnish social security system. "A research project that helps less than 4,000 people is not the answer and provides no hope to almost two million Ontarians who are trapped in a cycle of poverty".

However, they were also "no better or worse than the control group at finding employment in the open [labor] market", according to Ohto Kanninen, research coordinator at the Labour Institute for Economic Research.

The fear that nearly all human labour, including intellectual labour, might be replaced by cheaper and more efficient machines has led some to consider an unconditional basic income program for everyone.

Universal basic income, or UBI, means that everyone gets a set monthly income, regardless of means.

UBI is one of those rare issues that attracts equally strong support - and criticism - from all parts of the political spectrum.

Although it's enjoying a resurgence in popularity, the idea isn't new.

For a lot of people on the left, UBI focuses too heavily on individuals' personal wealth and buying power - or rather, their lack of it - without doing anything to stop companies wasting resources by producing far more stuff than people need, and over-working their employees in the process.

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