The Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela) made the first basic income payments to a pre-selected group of 2,000 25–58-year-old recipients on Monday, signalling the beginning of a two-year experiment that replaces unemployment benefits – either partially or completely – with the monthly 560-euro basic income.
“The basic income experiment is finally under-way,” tweeted Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre).
Kela reminds in a press release that the amount of basic income will be unaffected by any earned income that the recipients may have during the experiment. Their entitlement to other social benefits, on the other hand, will be determined based on the same rules as before, reminds Marjukka Turunen, the head of legal affairs at Kela.
“If someone finds work during the experiment, any earnings they have will affect for example the general housing allowance and social assistance. People may lose their entitlement to such benefits, if they find work and their earnings exceed a certain limit,” she explains.
Turunen reveals that one of the most common question asked by those selected to participate in the experiment is whether or not they really remain eligible for the basic income if they find, for example, part-time work during the experiment.
“When we reply that the purpose of the basic income is specifically to encourage recipients to seek employment, we get a very positive reaction,” says Turunen.
The basic income is also tax free and does not affect the amount of taxable income of recipients, adds Kela.
Ville Niinistö, the chairperson of the Green League, argues in his blog that the basic income is an opportunity to adapt the social security system to the 2010s.
“The basic income will eliminate the feeling of humiliation and shame associated with applying for social security benefits. It also provides people with room to make their own choices in life, thus encouraging them to try self-employment and accept short-term job offers, because an increase in earnings will not immediately lead to losing their entitlement to benefits,” he writes.
The Government and the general public, he says, should give the basic income the opportunity to demonstrate the power of gratuitous basic security.
“The premise of a positive view of human beings is that the greater the freedom of people to fulfil themselves in a way that also benefits them financially, the more they will contribute to the society,” says Niinistö. “The premise of a negative view of human beings is that the central administration must resort to limitations and prohibitions to force people in the most disadvantaged position to stop relying on social security and find employment.”
Paula Risikko (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, has demanded that a social security system that encourages participation is trialled alongside the basic income.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Heikki Saukkomaa – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi