Finland’s Basic Income Trial Produces Mixed Results

A two-year government experiment in Finland has found that giving residents a guaranteed income produces mixed results. The trial found that the guaranteed money made the recipients happier, but didn’t make them more likely to work. The government announced the initial findings this week roughly a month after the end of the trial.

As part of Finland’s basic income trial, roughly 2,000 randomly chosen unemployed Finns were paid a regular monthly income by the government that was not reduced if they found work. The plan also did not include any tax clawback if participants found work and reached a certain income level. The idea was seen as a way to offset job losses brought on by technological change and encourage residents to take lower-paying jobs that they may not have considered for fear of losing their unemployment benefits.

The trial, conducted in 2017 and 2018 by Kela, the country’s social insurance institution, found that participants in the trial were happier and healthier than the control group, but the impact on employment seems to have been minor. While the government’s original plan was to expand the basic income trial to more participants after two years, it now appears that the experiment will be scrapped altogether.

The trial was being watched closely by other governments to see if a basic income could be a viable solution to a persistent problem. While the Finns became the first Europeans to enact a widespread trial of the idea, the Canadian province of Ontario has also explored the idea with a large-scale experiment. In April, Italy is planning to introduce a trial that will offer income support to the unemployed and poor. Several cities in the United States are also interested in exploring the implementation of a basic income for residents.