The government of Finland is currently looking into whether it would be financially wise to get rid of its existing social service programs in favor of a guaranteed basic income. One proposal that is being studied, for example, would look at giving the equivalent of about $871.86 a month to all adults in the country, regardless of annual income or any other social indicator. Switzerland is also currently considering similar measures, and the government of Manitoba, Canada, experimented with a basic income during the 70s.
But despite past examples, the idea of a guaranteed basic income is still quite a new concept — one that may come with both pros and cons. For Finland, a basic income pilot program could begin as early as 2017. The government is interested in the study of a basic income program because they are concerned that the current system is overly bureaucratic and complicated. Additionally, many officials feel that it discourages people from looking for work in a country with almost double-digit unemployment rates. However, labor unions in Finland have reportedly announced opposition to the idea, throwing a note of caution into the study moving forward.
So is this a great idea or a bad one? Well, it’s certainly too early to tell for sure. On the positive side, a basic income could be a revolutionary new kind of safety net that residents are able to rely on without needing to submit applications or prove anything about their financial status.
On the other hand, Finland may have to eventually face the reality that not all needs are equal. A basic income, while more efficient and cost-effective to the government, could mean that those who are worst off — whether due to sudden job loss or unexpected familial burden for instance — might not have an avenue in the future to gain extra help beyond the standard income offered to all.
Regardless of how the study results turn out, it’s clear that the rest of the world will be watching quite closely. U.S. politicians are constantly in argument about the status of welfare and benefits programs. Perhaps they will have something to learn from the findings.