FINLAND: Finland shares unconditional money, but the public view remains polarised
Although an experiment on basic income is being performed in Finland at the moment (being expected to end by January 2019), this does not say much about what Finns think about it, or about basic income in general. According to recent research developed by Ville-Veikko Pulkka, a doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, not only does survey methodology deeply affect people’s responses, but current beliefs and views of society by Finnish citizens are also such that “there is no need for a paradigm shift”.
Ville-Veikko and his colleague Professor Heikki Hiilamo ran another survey in late 2017, arguing that other surveys on basic income in Finland such as Center party’s think tank e2 in 2015, Finnish Social Insurance Institution (Kela) in 2015, and Finnish Business and Policy Forum EVA in 2017 skewed results due to different ways of defining and framing basic income, with support ranging from 39 up to 79%. These researchers view their survey as “a more realistic view on basic income’s support in Finland”, having it based on the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) definition. They also explicitly referred the basic income net level of 560 €/month, which is around as much as many basic social benefits in Finland.
Ville-Veikko and Professor Hiilamo have found that the partial basic income of 560 €/month currently being tested in Finland is actually the most supported one among several basic income options (partial(1) with more or less than 560 €/month, full(1) with 1000 or 1500 €/month), with 51% of respondents saying it is a “good idea” (20% being undecided and 21% firmly considering it a bad idea). Significantly, of the surveyed income schemes, the most supported one was “participation income” (78% of supporters) which is not a basic income by definition.
This survey also showed that the younger the respondents (around 1000 in total), the more support the basic income proposal (the one cited above) receives – 72% under 24 years of age, down to 42% for people over 65. Occupation also seems to have a strong influence, with students showing 69% of support for basic income and entrepreneurs only 38%. For relatively obvious reasons, the unemployed and part-time employed were also more in support of the idea (68 and 61% respectively).
The new survey by Ville-Veikko and Professor Hiilamo comes at a time when it becomes clear that the Finnish government’s path is not to break from “the activation policies implemented since the 1990s”. This has been shown through the recent implementation of a tighter work activation model, aimed at the unemployed, which brings more conditionality and sanctions into the system. This is, apparently, contrary to the basic income spirit of unconditionality and, on top of that, the government is already considering tightening up unemployment benefits even further.
From the referred survey and recent Finnish government moves toward activation policies, it seems clear that running an experiment on basic income does not equate to leading the way towards the implementation of this policy. According to Ville-Veikko, basic income in Finland is likely to receive more support if only unemployment and work precarity rises significantly in the near future, which is uncertain even given the latest studies on the subject. It also becomes clear that the public remains polarized regarding social policies for the future: on the one hand there is moderate support for basic income, and on the other hand there is clear support for activation measures such as the “participation income”.
1 – here, “partial” refers to receiving the stipend and maintaining eligibility for housing allowance and earnings-related benefits, and “full” refers to losing eligibility to those same benefits.
More information at:
Kate McFarland, “FINLAND: First Results from Pilot Study? Not Exactly”, Basic Income News, May 10th 2017
“New model to activate unemployed comes into effect amid rising criticism”, YLE, 26th December 2017
“Finnish government plan for jobless: Apply for work weekly – or lose benefits”, YLE, 10th January 2018
Micah Kaats, “International: McKinsey report identifies basic income as a potential response to automation”, Basic Income News, 16th January 2018