Finland’s much-celebrated experiment in rolling out Universal Basic Income (UBI), a proposed replacement for out-of-work benefits in post-industrial nations where all citizens are paid by the government regardless of their income, is to end as the local government seeks other alternatives to welfare reform.
The limited trial which began in 2017 selected 2,000 unemployed Finns to receive a monthly payment of €560, regardless of whether they consequently found employment or not. Rather than expand the experiment to more jobseekers, the Finnish government has instead decided to let the trial expire at the end of 2018, signalling the end of the road in the Nordic nation for UBI.
The BBC reports the remarks of Finnish UBI designer Professor Olli Kangas, who said: “The eagerness of the government is evaporating. They rejected extra funding [for it]… I’m a little disappointed that the government decided not to expand it”.
The exact reasons why Finland decided not to extend the trial against the advice of Professor Kangas are not yet known and won’t be revealed until after the project is completed in 2019, but the news will be a disappointment to many who saw UBI as a new and enhanced way force increased taxation levels and redistribute wealth.
The concept has proven popular with Silicon Valley elites, with the hyper-wealthy Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, as well as Slack CEO and Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield joining together to endorse UBI in the United States, with Zuckerberg stating giving all citizens tax money would “give everyone a cushion to try new things.”
Others have argued that UBI will become necessary when increasing automation in the workplace renders some human work redundant, creating — it is claimed — mass-unemployment.
Yet findings by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) may hold some answers to the early end of Finland’s experiment — after the report showed that basic income paid by the government could actually increase inequality rather than solve it, and would require a 30 per cent income tax rise to pay for the policy.