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Finland set to scrap free money experiment after two-year trial

Key Points
  • The Finnish Social Insurance Institute, often referred to as Kela, introduced a two-year trial of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in January 2017.
  • The idea of UBI has previously been championed by several high-profile advocates, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton and Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.
  • Supporters of UBI argue an unconditional salary from the state would provide a guaranteed safety net for citizens. The full results of Finland's pilot are not scheduled to be released until late 2019.
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Europe's first national experiment to give citizens free cash will be scrapped next year, after Finland decided to discontinue its pioneering basic income trial.

The Finnish Social Insurance Institute, often referred to as Kela, introduced a two-year trial of Universal Basic Income (UBI) in January 2017. The scheme saw its government pay a random sample of 2,000 unemployed citizens aged 25 to 58 a monthly payment of 560 euros ($684).

Kela's trial did not require the recipients of basic income to seek or accept employment, while those who took a job during this period would still continue to receive the same amount of cash.

However, Kela's request for extra funding to expand the two-year pilot to a group of employees this year was rejected by the government on Monday. Instead, the Finnish administration said it would prioritize other schemes in an effort to reform the Scandinavian country's social security system.

"The government is making changes taking the system away from basic income," Kela's Miska Simanainen told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.

Social security

The idea of UBI has previously been championed by several high-profile advocates, including Nobel Prize-winning economist Angus Deaton and Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX and Tesla.

Supporters of UBI argue an unconditional salary from the state would provide a guaranteed safety net for citizens. This could help address widespread concerns linked to the so-called "gig" economy, at a time when reports forecast automation could threaten up to a third of current jobs.

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When Finland launched the experiment last year, its unemployment rate stood at 9.2 percent, significantly higher than its Nordic neighbors. This helped prompt a drive for somewhat ambitious social security reforms — including the UBI scheme.

The full results of the pilot are not scheduled to be released until late 2019, while Kela has vowed to stay in touch with the recipients of basic income to assess the long-term impact of the trial.