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‘Not a cure all’

Europe’s only basic income trial in Finland scrapped
Ryan Fletcher, Thursday, April 26th, 2018


Finland has scrapped Europe’s only government sponsored Universal Basic Income (UBC) trial.

 

The two year trial, introduced in January last year by the Finnish Social Insurance Institute, known as KELA, saw citizens paid a monthly income of £490 rather than receive unemployment benefits.

 

The stipend was paid unconditionally, meaning recipients did not have to look for work, as part of efforts to find a way to simplify the welfare system in Finland, as well as reducing unemployment and poverty rates.

 

The trial also received international recognition as a possible solution to a feared rise in unemployment due to a coming tide of automation shrinking the jobs market.

 

Researchers randomly selected 2,000 unemployed people aged between 25 and 58 from across Finland for the trial, but the Finnish government have announced they will stop funding the experiment once it finishes in January 2019.

 

KELA had called for more funding to expand the trial to a selection of working people, but the Finnish government dismissed their request.

 

KELA researcher Miska Simaninen told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet that the Finnish government have decided to examine welfare reforms that will “take the system further away from a basic income”.

 

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said the ending of the trial in Finland showed UBI is a deceptively simple concept that holds many pitfalls and that people should be “careful what they wish for”.

 

Graham said, “The scrapping of the trial in Finland showed that UBI is not simple to deliver and serious questions remain: Who would set the rates and how? How would we prevent it subsidising bad employers? And how could we stop it undermining the voice of working people and their right to bargain collectively?

 

“If we want work to remain a central pillar of society, then UBI cannot be the answer. Automation should deliver better jobs, not the end of jobs. We have got to demand shorter working weeks and better retirements, not be content to negotiate only redundancy packages. Many people see UBI as a cure all solution but they need to be careful what they wish for.”

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