It’s wellbeing, stupid

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Finland’s Social Security Institution, Kela, ran a basic income experiment: 2000 unemployed people were given €560 per month as basic income.

If any of the participants found a job, they still received the basic income. The experiment investigated basic income as a possible way to reshape and simplify the social security system.

The well being of those on basic income did improve significantly

The preliminary results of the study suggest that the basic income did not decrease (nor increase) unemployment in the trial group compared to a control group. However, their psychological and physical wellbeing did improve – 55% of the basic income receivers self-reported good health, compared to 46% of the control group – a significant difference.

This adds to numerous other studies that have been conducted, the majority showing positive effects on welfare and often economics.

Ollie Kangas, a researcher, noted: “Two years is too short a period to be able to draw extensive conclusions from such a big experiment. ” Much like the Finnish study, many basic income studies are short-term and focus on the unemployed.

There are exceptions, such as a 12-year study in Kenya, as well as a basic income lottery run by a German non-profit.

The lack of implementation despite these results suggests welfare is not the priority

Basic income is designed to offer stability when moving between jobs or training for a better-paid job. However, the idea is criticised. The left argues that it fails to address problems of unethical employment in companies and tax breaks for the rich.

There are also concerns that basic income programmes could be used to overall reduce welfare spending by the state. Criticisms from the right are centrally that the basic income programme’s implementation would cost too much and lead to tax increases.

Whether the Finnish Basic Income experiment was a success, in the end, depends on how we define success – is it population wellbeing, or is it decreasing unemployment at all costs?

The lack of implementation despite some positive results suggests that it isn’t wellbeing.

Photo: Giuseppe Milo via Flickr

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