Finland Plans to Give Every Citizen, Rich or Poor, $870 a Month
Those struggling to make ends meet in Finland could soon get some extra cash, courtesy of the government. The Nordic nation is considering plans to hand over 800 tax-free euros to citizens every month. And it’s not just for citizens who are strapped for cash—every resident would receive a monthly payment equivalent to about $870.
The monthly 800-euro payment would replace all other welfare, social security programs, and unemployment payments, The Independent reports. The Finnish government plans to begin testing the program in 2017.
Finland’s unemployment rate is at a 10-year high of more than 9 percent (the United States’ rate is 5.4 percent). Some fear the basic income would be unfair, with the wealthy receiving the same amount as the poor. Others worry it might make people less eager to find work, but the monthly check is designed to get people back into the workforce. For many Finnish citizens, getting a part-time or low-paying job could impact their welfare benefits, leaving them worse off than if they did not work at all.
Americans face a similar problem: Working 30 hours a week in several states disqualifies people from receiving unemployment. In countries such as Germany and Italy, unemployment benefits are tied to past work, with citizens qualifying only if they have worked in the past year.
The process to receive government assistance in practically every nation is complicated, requiring dozens of forms, proof of job seeking, and the filing of weekly claims. A set monthly check, with no strings attached, would eliminate the red tape.
“For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system,” said Prime Minister Juha Sipila, who supports the idea, according to The Telegraph. A survey by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution found that 69 percent of citizens would prefer basic income to other benefits.
Canada experimented with basic income in the 1970s, but when a conservative party came to power, it eliminated the program. Food Banks Canada issued a report in November calling for a return to basic income for the entire nation, saying it removes the stigma from receiving welfare.
The Netherlands has announced a basic income program in the city of Utrecht, but it will only serve citizens who would otherwise qualify for welfare. Switzerland is set to hold a referendum on a basic income program next year.