In the last week, the basic income experiment in Finland has gone viral, making headlines around the world, from UK-based Telegraph to Russia Today. Not all the reports however were correct. Here is what we know.
Update March 2016: KELA has published its recommendations – see a summary here.
Some articles mistakenly gave the impression that the Finnish government has already made plans to introduce a nation-wide basic income. As we reported before here and here, for now the government has committed to implement a basic income experiment. KELA, the Finnish government agency in charge of welfare benefits, rectified the misperception on Tuesday.
In a previous statement released on November 19, KELA provided additional information about the experiment. It highlighted four objectives behind the program. It aims to find feasible options for an overhaul of the social security system in response to labor market changes. Some of these trends include the growth of temporary contracts and freelance work that is not covered by the current work-based benefits structure. The experiment will also explore how to make the system more effective in terms of providing incentives for work, and avoiding the poverty trap – benefit recipients are discouraged from taking up employment, if the additional income received from a job is only marginally higher than means-tested benefits. Another goal is to reduce bureaucracy and simplify complex and costly procedures for administering benefits.
The experiment will be carried out in a context marked by three years of economic downturn, which has led to rising unemployment and pressures on public spending. The current center-right government took office after general elections in April this year, and is carrying out a wide-ranging program of cuts that will affect education, health and welfare provisions.