Finnish Basic Income Pilot Project

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Basic Income Earth Network Finland, Otto Lehto:

"This is the situation in our country. Finland elected a new parliament in April 2015. For the first time, the majority of parliamentarians have expressed their support, ranging from mild to strong, for a Basic Income (of some kind or another, since it is not entirely clear whether people understand the term in the same way).

The new government, led by Prime Minister Juha Sipilä from the Centre Party, has committed itself to setting up a pilot project for the BIG. The details are still forthcoming. The party has traditionally, at least since the 1990’s, been in support of a basic income or a negative income tax.

However, unlike the Greens and the Left Alliance, it has never specified what kind of a BI model it is aiming at. Support for the BIG renewed itself in the party after the new party leader, PM Sipilä expressed his support for setting up a pilot project (September 2014), and after the influential think tank Sitra, which has big impact on public policy, funded a report by Tänk (November 2014), which provided a roadmap for setting up a pilot project study for BIG. However, the leadership of the party is divided on whether this should be a proper BIG or a means-tested, conditional form of BIG.

The other government coalition parties are equally divided on the issue, so it is unclear on whether a “pure” BIG has any chance of even being tried. The new government has, after all, expressed its commitment to increasing the work requirement of social security in order to reduce costs. The same ambivalence is reflected in their statements released to the media."

The schizophrenic push and pull between these mutually incompatible goals - piloting an unconditional basic income and simultaneously increasing the conditionality of social security benefits - makes the prediction of the future difficult. The BIEN Finland network has strong existing connections to the opposition parties (including the Green Party and the Left Alliance, which are strong supporters of the BIG), but only tenuous, although developing, connections to the government coalition parties, so we have little leverage in the planning of the BIG pilot program. Nonetheless, we will continue to proactively offer our expertise to the government.

We will continue to follow the developments, and inform the European network as soon as we know more about where things are going."