Although it was recently reported that Finland has decided to “scrap” its experiment with universal basic income, The Economist has reported that the truth is not quite so simple. According to the weekly news magazine, the trial is not necessarily viewed by Kela as a failure and was always due to finish after two years.
Elsewhere, Kela has refuted claims made by the Scottish government that baby boxes can help to reduce infant mortality, while The Times has reported that Finland is set to share its citizens’ private data with professionals, researchers and pharmaceutical companies in order to offer more personalised healthcare.
The lapsing of Finland’s universal basic income trial
The concept of a universal basic income (UBI), an unconditional cash payment to all citizens, has in recent years captured the imagination of a wide spectrum of people, from leftist activists to libertarian Silicon Valley techies. Proponents see a neat solution to poverty and the challenges of automation; detractors argue it would remove the incentive to work. Trials of UBI have been launched, or are about to be, in several countries. Most are publicly funded, although Y Combinator, a Silicon Valley startup accelerator, is starting a privately funded experiment in America.
Finland was one of the first movers. In January 2017 it began a trial for 2,000 people, each receiving €560 ($680) a month. That drew legions of foreign journalists and camera crews. This week, however, international media attention abruptly centred on the ending of the experiment in December 2018. Headlines suggested that it had been “scrapped” or had “failed”. The truth is more nuanced.
The trial was always due to finish after two years, although Kela, Finland’s national welfare body, which was responsible for the experiment, had hoped to expand it (it was denied funding in January). The scheme was also more limited than the hype suggested; it was not a truly universal benefit, because all the recipients were chosen from among the unemployed. And the trial is not ending because of failure. Indeed, Kela has refused to publish any results until it is finished, for privacy reasons and to avoid biasing outcomes. The government simply has other priorities. In particular, it has decided to adopt Danish-style active labour-market policies.
Original article was published by The Economist on 26/04/2018 and can be found here.
Finland disputes Scotland's baby box claims after expert warning
The Finnish welfare and benefits agency that pioneered the use of baby boxes has challenged claims in Scotland that the temporary cribs can reduce infant mortality.
The agency, Kela, supported warnings by a leading expert on infant health, Dr Peter Blair, that it was wrong to say that Finland’s scheme had been proven to prevent or reduce infant mortality.
Blair said baby boxes should only be used for sleeping babies in an emergency or when no cot was available.
Sturgeon unveiled the baby box scheme two years ago, saying they would cut infant mortality. The first minister, speaking at the height of the 2016 Scottish parliament elections, told her party’s conference in March that year: “This simple but powerful idea originated in Finland. It provides practical help for parents and has reduced infant mortality and improved child health.”
But Kela told the Guardian it had never made that claim and there was no evidence to support it.
“We don’t want to promote the idea that there is evidence the baby box as such has decreased infant mortality in Finland or that Finland has made such claims. Rather, it has been the improving of our healthcare system of which the baby box is a part of, that our low infant mortality can be attributed to,” a Kela spokesperson said.
Original article was published by The Guardian on 03/05/2018 and can be found here.
Finns to share data in bid for state of permanent wellbeing
Finland, a land of lakes and forests, used to be known for tangible things: sawn pine timber for furniture, then Nokia mobile phones.
Now its claims to fame are intangible. Its schools were the world’s best before being eclipsed by those in Shanghai and Singapore. It is still the world’s happiest country but this, too, is in the balance as Finns grapple with twin challenges that are putting strain on its tax-funded welfare system.
A falling birth rate means that Finland is ageing faster than any country except Japan. The proportion of over-65s is projected to rise from 20 per cent to 29 per cent in 30 years. Many young men, especially in the remote north and east, are disaffected and drop out of school to live on benefits. The youth unemployment rate is 18.6 per cent.
Finland’s answer is to revolutionise welfare services by making citizens’ personal wellbeing records available to professionals and researchers. Electronic social security and health records for every Finn will be merged to create a dataset of unrivalled richness and, the government hopes, value. It will enable more personal healthcare and greater emphasis on preventative work. But it will also be offered to pharmaceutical companies and academics.
Original article was published by The Times on 28/04/2018 and can be found here.
Finnish study: Frequent sauna bathing significantly reduces risk of stroke
Frequent sauna bathing could significantly reduce the risk of stroke, a study conducted by researchers has shown.
The 15-year follow-up study has found that people taking a sauna four to seven times a week have a 61% lower risk of suffering a stroke than those taking a sauna once a week, according to a press release issued by the University of Eastern Finland on Thursday.
Conducted by scientists at the University of Eastern Finland, the study was carried out in cooperation with the University of Bristol, the University of Cambridge, the University of Innsbruck and other international universities.
The findings are based on a population-based study involving 1,628 men and women aged 53 to 74 years living in the eastern part of Finland.
The study indicated that reduced blood pressure, stimulation of the immune system and improvement of the heart and circulatory system were some of the reasons that led to regular sauna bathing reducing the risk of stroke.
Original article was published by Xinhua News Agency on 04/05/2018 and can be found here.
Dan Anderson – HT
Photo: Lehtikuva / Kela