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Finland basic income trial left people 'happier but jobless'

10 February 2019

The results of a social experiment in Finland which saw unemployed people paid a basic income by the government has bolstered calls for the scheme to be tested in the United Kingdom as a possible alternative to Universal Credit.

The trial was Finland's test of one alternative to renewing its social security model, a vast task expected to be tackled after parliamentary elections in April. The project is being watched closely by other governments who see a basic income as a way of encouraging the unemployed to take up often low-paid or temporary work without fear of losing their benefits. That could help reduce dependence on the state and cut welfare costs, especially as greater automation sees humans replaced in the workforce.

"The basic income experiment did not increase the employment of participants during the first trial year", Kela, the government agency in charge of benefits, and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health said in a statement.

But participants in the trial were happier and healthier than the control group.

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Two years into the experiment, the government's preliminary results have found 55 per cent of those receiving the income said they felt less stressed, had less difficulty concentrating and fewer health issues, in comparison to 25 per cent in the control group, reported NewsNow Finland.

For a lot of people on the left, UBI focuses too heavily on individuals' personal wealth and buying power - or rather, their lack of it - without doing anything to stop companies wasting resources by producing far more stuff than people need, and over-working their employees in the process.

In Finland, the relative high unemployment benefits have reduced the willingness of unemployed to accept work.

The former IT consultant had been unemployed for almost a year before "winning the lottery", as she described the trial.

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The city of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, is also carrying out a basic income study called "Know What Works" until October. After the tax, employment may give only a marginal increase in the monthly income, while free time is lost. The Finnish trial was a bit different, as it focused on people who were unemployed.

In January 2017 the country became the first European country to launch an experiment of its kind, testing the idea of an unconditional basic income.

In a review of the Finnish scheme past year, the OECD warned that implementing it nationally and cost-neutrally for the state would imply significant income redistribution, especially towards couples from single people, and increase poverty. The Finnish income and tax data bases are being used for the analyses. Swiss voters in a 2016 referendum, with nearly 77 percent voting against. The current leading party the Center has said that it supports basic income, but its vistas include application and requirements for the recipients, not considered as part of a basic income solution.

He said the end of the two-year trial, during which he published two books, had made it hard again for him to accept commissions, because "I. can earn only 300 euros per month without losing any benefits".

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Finland basic income trial left people 'happier but jobless'