Finland to test unconditional basic income for Finns in 2017


Finland is looking to experiment in 2017 with a basic monthly income for Finns, a universal and unconditional monthly payment seen as a way to reform the welfare system and cut spending, Finnish authorities said Tuesday.

The ambitious experiment could lead the Nordic country to scrap its complex system of state subsidies for unemployment, housing, studying or parental leave.

“The universal basic income experiment is planned to be launched in 2017,” Finland’s social insurance institution Kela in a statement.

The centre-right government has commissioned a study to take place next year where researchers will look into possible models for the experiment and details such as the monthly amount to be paid and its effect on taxation.

“Full basic income would come without other subsidies and therefore it should be rather significant, around 800 euros a month,” Kela’s chief researcher Olli Kangas had estimated in October.

While the idea of basic income was originally advocated by leftist politicians in Finland, there is now across-the-board support for the experiment to be conducted.

But it is likely to become politically contentious when the current three-party coalition is to pick its model for the universal wage.

The government, led by former businessman Juha Sipilä of the Centre Party, eyes it as an opportunity to cut down overall welfare spending amid Finland’s economic woes.

Finland has been in recession since 2012, a situation blamed on its falling competitiveness, ageing population and the economic woes of its major trading partners, Russia and the European Union.

Prior to taking office as the prime minister in April, Sipilä had advocated for a regional experiment in which the basic income’s impact would be tested in just one region first.

“Finland’s situation is so serious that we need courage to experiment and find new solutions,” Sipila said last year.

EU data shows that there are huge differences in the minimum wage workers receive, depending on the countries in which they're employed. 

A worker in Luxembourg who receives the monthly minimum wage €1,923, the highest amount in the EU, gets 945% more than the same worker in Bulgaria (€184), the country which has the lowest minimum wage in the EU, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the EU.

>> Read: Survey: Minimum wages uneven in EU

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