Finland Exploring ‘Universal Basic Income’ to Pay Unemployed Workers

January 5, 2017 5:00 am
Euro banknotes
Euro banknotes. (Getty)
Euro banknotes


Two thousand unemployed Finnish workers are soon going to be winning the lottery—but none of them know it yet.

That’s because the government of Finland is planning to test a new system this year in which it’ll automatically dole out a set income to those financially-strapped citizens with no strings attached.

The real payoff here, according to The New York Times, is a grand experiment in economics—and human nature. Will this spigot of free money compel the jobless to seek future employment (or an education to land it), or will they just spend their extra bucks on the latest Nintendo game or a comfortable leather chair? The study will take place over two years, so these people will not just be getting a single “paycheck.”

This is all in an attempt to recast how countries deal with globalization, the Times reports. Journalist Peter S. Goodman writes:

Americans’ election of Donald Trump, who has vowed to radically constrain trade, and the stunning vote in Britain to abandon the European Union, have resounded as emergency sirens for global leaders. They must either update capitalism to share the spoils more equitably, or risk watching angry mobs dismantle the institutions that have underpinned economic policy since the end of World War II.

What the Finnish are attempting is better known as “universal basic income,” which is a bit of a pie-in-the-sky concept where the government pays you something, regardless of whether you have a job or what your income is. While we don’t see this catching on anywhere in the U.S. anytime soon, a pilot program, sponsored by Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley-based start-up incubator, is doing something similar in Oakland, California. And similar trial runs are also on the way in Canada and France.

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