Finland on Wednesday said the Nordic country’s trailblazing basic income experiment is going ahead as planned, denying media reports that the trial has fallen flat.
Government social affairs official Miska Simanainen told The Associated Press that the trial — in which about 2,000 unemployed people aged 25 to 58 are paid a tax-free 560-euro ($680) monthly income with no questions asked — “is proceeding as planned ” with “no changes in direction.”
Finland became the first country in Europe to start such an income experiment on a national level in January 2017. The 20 million-euro program, which seeks to reform Finland’s social security system, ends in December, and Prime Minister Juha Sipila’s center-right government will assess initial results after that.
Continuation of the unique trial may well become a political hot potato ahead of the April 2019 election, Simanainen said.
“It’s up to the new government to decide whether to experiment further with basic income,” Simanainen said, adding that several government and opposition parties support the basic income trial.
Simanainen said recent media reports that the government social affairs agency has requested up to 70 million euros in extra funding this year are false.
He says the agency is happy with the plan, though it originally sought to have up to 10,000 citizens taking part, including those who are employed. It hasn’t requested further government funds in 2017 or this year.
The head of the social affairs ministry, Liisa Siika-aho, said that at least some 50 million euros is required should officials decide to expand the trial to include other low-income groups such as freelancers, small-scale entrepreneurs and part-time workers.
In a statement Wednesday, the agency said the purpose of the experiment was to “study the effect of increasing cash incentives for work and simplifying the social security system on the employment rate of the study participants.”
In addition, cutting red tape for job seekers is a major government goal.
The plan was initially agreed in 2016 by the three-party coalition government led by Sipila’s centrist Center Party.