Finland to End Universal Basic Income Experiment This Year


In 2016, Finland began an experiment with a universal basic income (UBI). The country's government selected 2,000 unemployed people age 25 to 58 in the hopes that the supplemental income would be able to pursue new opportunities in the workforce. However, the Finnish government soon found something out: their citizens are not exactly on board with the idea of handing out money to people without work requirements.

The experiment captured global attention, with many people anxiously watching to see if UBI could be a workable solution to the perceived issues of income inequality and automation. But the program did not produce the desired results, and the Finnish government will be ending the program's funding at the end of 2018.

[T]he Finnish government’s decision to halt the experiment at the end of 2018 highlights a challenge to basic income’s very conception. Many people in Finland — and in other lands — chafe at the idea of handing out cash without requiring that people work.

The program began as an unconditional giveaway to the participants. They could do with the money as they pleased. However, earlier in 2018 the government decided to add work requirements as a condition of receiving the benefit.

“It’s a pity that it will end like this,” said Olli Kangas, who oversees research at Kela, a Finnish government agency that administers many social welfare programs and has played a leading role in the basic-income experiment. “The government has chosen to try a totally different path. Basic income is unconditional. Now, they are pursuing conditionality.”

Interest in the experiment is not waning, however, as other regions across the globe are starting their own UBI trials (including in California). Will these experiments go the same way as Finland's has? Only time will tell, but we may be able to predict the result thanks to economist Charles Murray's discussion of UBI.

Murray believes that a UBI system may be more tenable than the current US welfare system. However, if UBI is to be implemented, it would have to be accompanied with the complete and total end of all other social welfare programs.

I think that there are all sorts of ways to do that, which would cause catastrophe. I think if we simply add that onto the current benefit system, it's not affordable and it also is a catastrophe; but what if it replaces everything else? There's no more Medicare, no more Social Security, there is no more welfare, and there's no more corporate welfare, there's no more agricultural subsidies. I can go through the whole is the transfers. There's none of that stuff, and there's also none of the bureaucracies that administer it.

Perhaps Finland's problem with its UBI experiment is the existence of so many social welfare programs already in place, like universal health care, generous unemployment benefits, and large job training programs. As professor Heikki Hiilamo stated, "In a sense, Finland already has basic income."

What are your thoughts on the end of Finland's UBI experiment? Are the others doomed to suffer the same fate?