Pack a heavy coat, folks, we’re going to Finland. The Finnish Social Insurance Institution, also known as Kela, has begun work on a proposal that would guarantee a basic income to every citizen of the small Nordic nation. This system of a universal state-facilitated payment delivered to every Finnish person would transform the state’s welfare system and potentially provide a blueprint for other countries looking to build a different kind of economy.
When fully implemented, the universal basic income would provide every Finnish citizen with a monthly taxfree payment of 800 euros, equivalent to about USD 881. This would replace currently existing social benefits received through the Finnish welfare system. Any income earned beyond the basic income will be taxable. Kela’s basic income proposal includes a trial period in which the payment delivered to citizens is only 550 euros, while existing benefits such as housing and income support would not be affected.
Unemployment has steadily increased in Finland over the past decade and citizens are eager for innovative solutions. In April 2015, the pro-basic income Centre Party won the most seats in the Finnish parliament elections with 21 percent of the vote. Two other pro-basic income parties, the Green League and the Left Alliance, respectively won 8 percent and 7 percent of the vote. Even the voters for the nationalist True Finns party, which won 17.6 percent of the vote, support basic income, with 57 percent approval.
Kela aims to submit its basic income proposal to the Finnish government by November 2016. The government then intends to begin the trial on a national level. The city of Utrecht in the nearby Netherlands has already begun its basic income experiment.
Basic income promises to free workers from the need to earn a living by any means necessary. With stability in one’s life, the individual is then free to pursue creative, entrepreneurial, or humanitarian causes. They are better able to maintain family and community. Thanks to progressive policymakers in Finland, the whole world will soon learn whether this promise is true.