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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Finland's Basic Income

Finland's Basic Income

Thousands to receive basic income in Finland: A trial that could
lead to the greatest societal transformation of our time

By Demos Helsinki
September 03, 2016

Finland is about to launch an experiment in which a randomly
selected group of 2,000–3,000 citizens already on unemployment
benefits will begin to receive a monthly basic income of 560 euros
(approx. $600).

That basic income will replace their existing benefits.

The amount is the same as the current guaranteed minimum level
of Finnish social security support.

The pilot study, running for two years in 2017-2018, aims to assess
whether basic income can help reduce poverty, social exclusion,
and bureaucracy, while increasing the employment rate.

The Finnish government introduced its legislative bill for the
experiment on 25 August.

Originally, the scope of the basic income experiment was much
more ambitious.

Many experts have criticized the government’s experiment for
its small sample size and for the setup of the trial, which will
be performed within just one experimental condition.

This implies that the experiment can provide insights on only one
issue, namely whether the removal of the disincentives embedded
in social security will encourage those now unemployed to return
to the workforce or not.

Still, the world’s largest national basic income experiment
represents a big leap towards experimental governance, a
transformation that has been given strong emphasis in the
current government program of the Finnish state.

Additionally, the Finnish trial sets the agenda for the future
of universal basic income at large.

Its results will be closely followed by governments worldwide.

The basic income experiment may thus well lead to the greatest
societal transformation of our time.

There are few important things one should understand when
following the headlines on the Finnish basic income experiment:

1. Basic income is the most comprehensive political reform
of our century so far.

There is no other reform in sight that would a) potentially impact
the majority of citizens in any given nation and b) be of such great
importance in as many countries as basic income is today.

Take the global interest in the Finnish experiment as evidence: why
such attention for a trial in a country of just 5 million inhabitants?

Probably because basic income seems to address challenges faced
by all societies across borders.

Currently, basic income is being discussed in earnest in Switzerland
(where a basic income reform was rejected in a referendum in June
2016), in the US (where Y Combinator, an organization known for its
highly successful start-up accelerator, has announced a pilot
experiment for basic income to take place in Oakland, California)
and in the Netherlands (where a basic income experiment will begin
in the city of Utrecht in January 2017).

2. The Finnish basic income experiment is officially referred to as
an incremental reform of the welfare model, not as an indicator of
a complete paradigm shift.

At present, citizens in Finland are entitled to a minimum level
of social security support that is the same as the amount of its
suggested basic income (560€ a month).

In official statements, the basic income experiment is said to aim
to reduce bureaucracy, to unravel disincentives and to decrease
poverty in society.

Government documents do not mention changes in the structure
of work and income, nor do they offer comments on looming
technology-induced unemployment.

Looming explosion of robotics and automatisation is estimated to
take over various jobs in short period of time, resulting in major
changes in the structure of work.

Hence, basic income is seen as an additional element to the
Finnish universal social security system.

Elsewhere, basic income has been envisioned as a solution for
rising inequality, exacerbated by the explosion of robotics and
the automatisation of routine work.

Top politicians in Finland, however, have not explicitly made
these connections.

3. The basic income trial is a part of a larger shift in policy-making.

Over the last two years, Finland has explored possibilities
on how to reform its policy-making functions.

As Forbes put it, Finland, through the Prime Minister’s Office, has
“been pioneering a form of deciding upon public policy where
people actually think through the problems at issue, think about
them, consider solutions, test a few of them, then implement the

This new form of policy-making has come to be known as,
“co-design” or “co-creation” of policy.

In short, the term refers to the engaging of relevant stakeholders
and citizens in the policy-making process from its early phases

As further described in this article, which looks at the policy-
making model that was created by Nordic think tank Demos
Helsinki, more human-centered and experimental governmental
steering can encourage trust and make policy more user-oriented,
targeted and efficient.

The basic income trial will pave the way for about 20 other large-
scale experiments in Finland that have been launched or will be
launched by the country’s ministries in the coming months.

With the preparation work for the basic income trial, the Finns
have spotted a handful of legislative problems that will need to
be tackled in order to foster further experimentation.

Experimental culture in general has encouraged civil servants to
take a permissive attitude to legislation and thus enabled further
innovative experimentation (well demonstrated by this case, where
traffic law was reinterpreted so that it allowed Finland to become
the first country in the world to test driverless vehicles in real
urban environments).

Lastly, preparing the large experiment has already forced the
country to open up the discussion on and solve important issues
in relation to the ethics and practices of experimenting.

All this lays as a solid groundwork for building a forerunner
governance system in the country.
Demos Helsinki has written widely on basic income, and its experts
have been consulted for features in The Guardian, Forbes, Business
Insider, Futurism, and other media.

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