A recent experiment about basic income in Finland has all sides of the movement debating the results.
Finland’s unemployment insurance is complicated. There are lots of rules plus means testing. Because of this, recipients don’t always know how much support they’ll receive month-to-month. Working part-time or even pursuing a hobby can impact unemployment payments.
Finland tested replacing a confusing system of unemployment insurance with a direct, flat payment to unemployed people.
The study results found that basic income didn’t make people more or less likely to work compared to those receiving the traditional unemployment benefits.
Opponents of a basic income argue that it robs people of their motivation to work. Since the study didn’t show a decrease in unemployment, opponents see the experiment as a failure.
Proponents look at the brighter side. The payments did not decrease the likelihood of people working, so the opponents’ argument about motivation doesn’t hold up. The basic income system is also easier for officials to implement and users to understand.
Proponents also point out that the study found that recipients “had more trust in other people and social institutions, and showed more faith in their ability to have influence over their own lives, in their personal finances and in their prospects of finding employment.”
This could be the key. Couldn’t we use more trust in people and institutions especially when we’re unemployed?
Like many other situations, this one experiment about basic income in Finland won’t end any debates. But it does provide another data point into the practicalities of implementing something as ambitious as a basic income.