Podcast: Back to basics – Finland’s Universal Basic Income

An update from Helsinki about the trials and tribulations of Finland’s basic income

Olli Kangas, Sharon Bessell, Martyn Pearce

Economics and finance, Government and governance, Social policy | The World

1 June 2018

On this week’s Policy Forum Pod, we hear from Olli Kangas, the lead designer of Finland’s Universal Basic Income experiment, about the future of social welfare and why the Finnish trial will be discontinued.

In 2016, when Finland launched its Universal Basic Income (UBI) program, it was applauded for being at the forefront of social welfare. But even though the Finnish experiment received strong early praise, Finland’s government has decided not to continue the program past the end of this year. Nevertheless, this experiment has given researchers valuable insights which will shape the global conversation around the future of Universal Basic Income (UBI). Listen here: http://bit.ly/PFPubi2

Back in July 2016, Olli Kangas spoke on Policy Forum Pod about the beginnings of this experiment and in this latest podcast, we hear about what has happened in this space over the past two years.

Professor Olli Kangas is the Head of the Research Department at the Social Insurance Institution of Finland. He was one of the leading designers for Finland’s experiment with its basic income.

Kangas explained that the decision to not extend the experiment beyond the current 2,000 unemployed people involved was due to many factors. “There were politics involved, there was money involved and there were all kinds of things involved,” he said.

The results from this experiment will not be released until the beginning of next year, so it is still too early to say to what extent basic income has affected the lives of recipients.

Despite the experiment not going any further, Kangas still supports the program’s usefulness, saying basic income is a way to “give security and make people’s lives happier.”

It was also intended to tackle a challenging social security program, he adds.

“One reason why [the government] started this experiment was to see if basic income was a possibility to make our social security that’s rather complex, [more] transparent and simpler,” he says.

Although the Finnish experiment only looked at unemployment compensation, there are global debates around whether basic income could replace old-age pensions, disability pensions and other types of social security income.

While Finland’s program may be different to the basic income experiments held in other parts of the world, together, they could paint a picture of the benefits and challenges of UBI.

“The experiments are different … One experiment here or there couldn’t say if basic income is good or not,” says Kangas.

“But when we combine results from different kinds of experiments, when we compare what they are getting out in Canada, when we compare what they are getting out in Scotland with what we get out here, in Finland, and also perhaps we can learn something from the Indian and the Kenyan experiment… then we can create a better picture of what basic income is about, and what it can do, and what it cannot do,” says Kangas.

Even though Finland’s experiment on basic income will come to an end, the discussion that has come out of it has the potential to shape the future of UBI and the nature of welfare states. Once the results are released and the experiment has concluded, we will have a better understanding of whether basic income will be a beneficial form of social security.

Olli Kangas was in discussion with Sharon Bessell. This episode of the bod was produced by Sharon Bessell and edited by Martyn Pearce. This blog post was written by Maya Bhandari.

Policy Forum Pod is available on SpotifyiTunesStitcher, and wherever you get your podcasts. Got feedback for us on this pod? Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or find us on Facebook.

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