As of January 1, 2017 Finland is providing 2,000 unemployed citizens with a basic income of 560 Euros every month for two years. The nation hopes that the experiment will improve quality of life for its citizens while opening up new jobs. Helsinki University social policy professor Heikki Hiilamo told The New York Times: “Basic income is kind of a symbol that we believe in your capacity and we think that you are actually able to do things which are beneficial to you, and also for your community. It’s built on a kind of a positive view of human beings. People want to be autonomous. They want to improve their well-being.”
If you currently collect unemployment in Finland, you risk losing your benefits if you start to bring in side income. The country has discovered that the regulations behind this safety net effectively deter people from seeking part-time jobs. Starting a new company or joining a startup is also risky, and many people need the reliability of an unemployment check. In contrast, those receiving basic income under the new experiment won’t risk losing a steady income if they start making money on the side.
Over two years, the Finnish government will watch how people utilize basic income. Will they take a risk in business, or will they pursue higher education to secure better jobs? Will they sit on a couch at home playing video games? The government will randomly choose unemployed citizens to receive 560 Euros, or around $580, each month. The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) will implement the experiment.
Kela’s research department head Olli Kangas told The New York Times, “Some people think basic income will solve every problem under the sun, and some people think it’s from the hand of Satan and will destroy our work ethic. I’m hoping we can create some knowledge on this issue.”