Finland abandons ‘basic income’ plan after just two years

Finland abandons ‘basic income’ plan after just two years
Finnish President Sauli Niinisto attends a joint news conference on Aug. 28, 2017, with U.S. President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington, D.C. Finland is abandoning its basic income experiment after just two years. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

After just two years, Finland has abandoned its experiment with giving its citizens a basic income.

What are the details?

The plan, which took effect at the beginning of 2017, gave 2,000 unemployed Finns a monthly stipend of 560 euros, equivalent to around $690 U.S., which amounted to more than $33 million over the course of two years, just for this limited experiment.

Unlike unemployment benefits, those receiving this stipend were under no obligation to prove that they were actively looking for work at any point. Also, unlike unemployment benefits, the 2,000 recipients would still get the stipend even if they found jobs.

The 2,000 Finnish citizens were between 25 and 58 years old and were selected at random by Finland’s social security agency, Kela. The Finnish government had originally intended to expand the test project this year to include more people, both employed and unemployed.

The program will continue to pay stipends to all 2,000 participants until December. Results from the experiment will be published as soon as 2019.

Was more time needed?

One expert who took part in designing the program, Olli Kangas, told a local public broadcaster that he thought more time was needed to tell whether the program could work in the long run.

“Two years is too short a period to be able to draw extensive conclusions from such a big experiment,” Kangas told YLE. “We should have had extra time and more money to achieve reliable results.”

Kangas told the BBC that support for the project had dried up since it was first implemented.

“The eagerness of the government is evaporating,” he said.

Finland’s plan for a universal basic income has received support from celebrities and CEOs, including Richard Branson, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Tesla and Space X CEO Elon Musk.

What’s next for Finland?

In December, Finland’s Parliament voted to start an alternative program, where recipients would have to find a job by a certain point to continue receiving benefits. A high unemployment rate of 9.2 percent and a bureaucratic welfare system have fueled calls for reform.

But the Finnish government may not be done with giving out some sort of universal income. Finland’s finance Minister, Petteri Orpo, told Finnish newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, “When the basic-income experiment ends this year, we should launch a universal credit trial.”

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