A new year often means new promises. Finland has started 2017 by offering free money to the unemployed for two years. The plan is to see how the free cash helps the unemployed citizens find work.
The social-security company, Kela, will start sending out around $590 to an estimated 2,000 citizens. The program started Monday and plans to last through to 2019. Even if the citizens find work or not, the money will come the first of each month.
This plan is a trial of basic income. Universal basic income (UBI) gives out money to people just for being alive. However, by giving the money to citizens individually this ensures that no one gets left out.
Marjukka Turunen, head of Kela’s legal team, thinks basic income benefits Finland in two ways. First, basic income will help sort out the social security’s benefits system.
Every citizen separates into different benefit categories based on their status. For example, if one is a student or unemployed. Rather than changing someone’s status all the time, basic income would allow an indefinite status. This would make things easy for the customers and the company.
This is also a great experiment to gauge people’s reactions to obtaining free money. It’s easy to believe that receiving a free check will lead to laziness. However, is it too optimistic to think that this free cash will prompt people to get out and better themselves instead? Maybe a few hopefuls will take the opportunity given and attempt to start their own businesses.
There is no expectation for this base income trial to lead to anything larger. Finland simply would not be able to afford it.The base income experiment is, however, starting around the world. Here in the U.S., Y Combinator has spoken of a project that will be starting in California.
As for the Finland’s basic income project, Turunen says, “Some people might stay on their couches, and some might go to work. We don’t know yet.”