Universal basic income trial in Finland fails to help unemployed people back to work

Money did not appear to spur the recipients on to seek work more, researchers say

Tim Wyatt
Friday 08 February 2019 15:20 GMT
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Louise Thomas

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Finland’s ground-breaking experiment in basic income has failed to help the unemployed rejoin the workforce.

The two year test, saw 2,000 randomly-selected citizens who did not have jobs given €560 – about £490 – a month for two years.

Although it was guaranteed to them whether they managed to find jobs or not, it did not appear to spur the recipients on to seek work more, researchers said.

“The impact on employment seems to have been minor on the grounds of the first trial year,” Finland’s minister of health and social affairs Pirkko Mattila said.

The experiment attracted global attention when it began, as it was the first time a European nation committed to paying its citizens a monthly tax-free wage with no strings attached.

But when compared to a control group who were not receiving the basic income, the test subjects given the money, were not significantly more likely to have got back into employment.

However, they did report being happier and healthier than the control group.

“The basic income recipients of the test group reported better wellbeing in every way in comparison with the comparison group,” the trial’s chief researcher Olli Kangas said.

The experiment formed one part of a range of welfare reforms launched by Finland’s centre-right government to try and bring down the country’s high unemployment rate.

Some 6.6 per cent of Finns were out of work in December; a 10-year low, but still almost two-thirds higher than the British rate of four per cent.

Finland has now embraced a different approach to the problem, imposing tougher new sanctions on unemployed people who choose not to accept jobs while receiving benefits.

Interest in basic income has soared in recent years.

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A poll in August found 40 per cent of British people supported the concept and would welcome experiments of the radical policy in their local area.

John McDonnell, the Labour shadow chancellor, told The Independent last year his party would include plans for a pilot of universal basic income in its next election manifesto.

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