Videos of two lectures on Finland’s basic income pilot are now available online. The lectures, delivered by Marjukka Turunen and Olli Kangas of Kela, were originally aired as part of a public event on Finland’s “social innovations”.

As previously announced in Basic Income News, Kela, the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, held a series of short lectures called “Socially Innovative Finland” on January 12, 2017. The event, which was open to the public and streamed lived online, highlighted two “social innovations” from Kela: the eight-decade-old maternity package, under which all mothers-to-be receive a package of child necessities, and the two-year basic income experiment launched this year. Two speakers, Marjukka Turunen (Head of Legal Affairs Unit) and Olli Kangas (Director of Government and Community Relations), discussed the basic income experiment and fielded a variety of questions from the live and online audiences.

Olli Kangas: “Basic income – Part of tomorrow’s social security?”

Kangas situates Finland’s basic income experiment in its political and economic context: the center-right government that took office in May 2015 decided to investigate a basic income as a way to remove the disincentives to work and reduce the bureaucracy inherent in Kela’s current programs of unemployment compensation; meanwhile, changes in the labor force underscored the need for a revised system of social security.

Kangas describes the rise of short-term labor contract labor and the threat of automation as general sources of motivation for basic income. Then, focusing specifically on the Finnish context, he discusses the country’s increase in self-employment as well as its high rate of structural unemployment. He goes on to explain how Finland’s current welfare system can creates a disincentive to work. In some cases, as he describes, individuals who leave unemployment benefits to take a job face an effective marginal tax rate of 80-100%. Moreover, the current system creates “bureaucratic traps” whereby individuals are deterred from accepting short-term work (asking, e.g., “If I accept the job for six months or so, do I again qualify for the benefit I used to have?”).


Marjukka Turunen: “How the basic income experiment works in practice”

Turunen provides an introduction to Finland’s basic income experiment, including an overview of the experiment’s design, motivation, and implementation. She explains why the researchers hypothesize that the basic income will provide an incentive for unemployed persons to take on paid employment–the main outcome that the experiment has been designed to test–and describes other potential benefits to individuals. For example, she notes that financial security brings “peace of mind” and allows individuals to plan for the future with less uncertainty. Furthermore, the basic income eliminates the time-consuming task of applying to Kela to maintain unemployment benefits–which, as she mentions, requires the submission of paperwork every four weeks–or to change benefit status due to sickness or childbirth. Recipients of the basic income are not required to inform Kela of their employment status, income, or other life changes.

Turunen also describes Kela’s process of selecting a sample of 2000 individuals for the experiment, contacting them, and distributing the first funds. She points out that researchers will not conduct interviews of the subjects during the course of the experiment, in order to avoid a possible source of influence on their behavior. Moreover, it is the policy of Kela not to disclose information about the basic income recipients to the media. Nonetheless, Turunen notes, some recipients have themselves divulged information about their situations and reactions to the basic income trial; she reviews some of these preliminary reactions near the end of the lecture.

Reviewed by Danny Pearlberg 

Photo: Helsinki, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Jonathan

About Kate McFarland

Kate McFarland has written 512 articles.

Former lead writer and editor of Basic Income News.