No one would confuse this frigid corner of northern Finland with Silicon Valley. Notched in low pine forests just 100 miles below the Arctic Circle, Oulu seems more likely to achieve dominance at herding reindeer than at nurturing technology start-ups.
But this city has roots as a hub for wireless communications, and keen aspirations in innovation. It also has thousands of skilled engineers in need of work. Many were laid off by Nokia, the Finnish company once synonymous with mobile telephones and more recently at risk of fading into oblivion.
While entrepreneurs are eager to put these people to work, the rules of Finland’s generous social safety net effectively discourage this. Jobless people generally cannot earn additional income while collecting unemployment benefits or they risk losing that assistance. For laid-off workers from Nokia, simply collecting a guaranteed unemployment check often presents a better financial proposition than taking a leap with a start-up in Finland, where a shaky technology industry is trying to find its footing again.
Now, the Finnish government is exploring how to change that calculus, initiating an experiment in a form of social welfare: universal basic income. Early next year, the government plans to randomly select roughly 2,000 unemployed people — from white-collar coders to blue-collar construction workers. It will give them benefits automatically, absent bureaucratic hassle and minus penalties for amassing extra income.
The government is eager to see what happens next. Will more people pursue jobs or start businesses? How many will stop working and squander their money on vodka? Will those liberated from the time-sucking entanglements of the unemployment system use their freedom to gain education, setting themselves up for promising new careers? These areas of inquiry extend beyond economic policy, into the realm of human nature.
The answers — to be determined over a two-year trial — could shape social welfare policy far beyond Nordic terrain. In communities around the world, officials are exploring basic income as a way to lessen the vulnerabilities of working people exposed to the vagaries of global trade and automation. While basic income is still an emerging idea, one far from being deployed on a large scale, the growing experimentation underscores the deep need to find effective means to alleviate the perils of globalization.
The search has gained an extraordinary sense of urgency as a wave of reactionary populism sweeps the globe, casting the elite establishment as the main beneficiary of economic forces that have hurt the working masses. Americans’ election of Donald J. Trump, who has vowed to radically constrain trade, and the stunning vote in Britain to abandon the European Union, have resounded as emergency sirens for global leaders. They must either update capitalism to share the spoils more equitably, or risk watching angry mobs dismantle the institutions that have underpinned economic policy since the end of World War II.
Universal basic income is a catchall phrase that describes a range of proposals, but they generally share one feature: All people in society get a regular check from the government — regardless of their income or whether they work. These funds are supposed to guarantee food and shelter, enabling people to pursue their own betterment while contributing to society.
A Silicon Valley start-up incubator, Y Combinator, is preparing a pilot project in Oakland, Calif., in which 100 families will receive unconditional cash grants ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 a month. Voters in Switzerland recently rejected a basic-income scheme, but the French Senate approved a trial. Experiments are being readied in Canada and the Netherlands. The Indian government has been studying basic income as a means of alleviating poverty.
“The last two years, there’s been an explosion of interest in basic income,” says Guy Standing, a research associate with the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, and a co-founder of the Basic Income Earth Network, an institution created to promote the idea. “The elites realize that the inequalities are becoming politically dangerous.”
For generations, policy makers have sought the magic formula for so-called full employment, with nearly everyone who wants a job able to find one. Traditional unemployment insurance schemes were devised in an age when the cyclical nature of factory life was dominant. Workers who were idled in lean times could pay their bills using unemployment benefits while awaiting the inevitable return of flush ones.
Universal basic income is gaining consideration in part as an acknowledgment that the labor market has changed so fundamentally that full employment may amount to a fantasy. Factories have been refashioned into urban-chic office spaces. Robots are replacing workers, while the gig economy turns full-time jobs into contract positions.
Basic income is intended to be permanent, built for an age in which demand for labor may be perpetually slack. Whatever happens — say everyone becomes a part-time Uber driver, or Uber drivers are replaced by self-driving cars — everyone can count on sustenance.
Strikingly, basic income is being championed across the ideological spectrum.
Learn more: Free Cash in Finland. Must Be Jobless
Receive an email update when we add a new UNIVERSAL BASIC INCOME article.
The Latest on: Universal basic income
via Google News
The Latest on: Universal basic income
- Universal Basic Income: Government not yet committed to ‘R1268’ granton August 25, 2021 at 6:06 am
The Treasury Department said talks are underway but cabinet has not given a universal basic income grant the stamp of approval.
- Basic income grant not on treasury’s watchlist — yeton August 25, 2021 at 4:13 am
Mogajane, who was at pains to detail the government’s fiscal squeeze, said the basic income grant “does not feature in our thinking currently”. “Work obviously is underway. There is no commitment as ...
- The Choctaw Nation is giving its members $2,000 apiece in universal basic income from stimulus funds. Other tribes are trying similar things.on August 23, 2021 at 2:04 pm
The Choctaw, Navajo, Cherokee, and Osage tribes all unveiled direct-payment plans. Their announcements arrived just as the economic recovery stumbled.
- A universal basic income pilot program is giving homeless people $500 a month for 6 monthson August 23, 2021 at 9:43 am
Miracle Money's UBI program is modeled after a successful program in Canada that gave homeless people $7,500 each.
- A universal basic income grant isn’t the solutionon August 23, 2021 at 5:38 am
The solution to this however is not a universal basic income grant. Nor is the solution getting the government to create a social security tax which will add to the world’s tenth highest income tax ...
- What we know and what we don’t know about universal basic incomeon August 22, 2021 at 9:00 pm
The debate on Universal Basic Income is often polarised and rooted in selective data. Trials show it performs in both stable and volatile settings.
- How one universal basic income experiment is helping the homeless get off the streetson August 21, 2021 at 7:06 am
Covid-19 has exacerbated housing issues for many people. Now, one program is testing what happens if the homeless are given monthly guaranteed income.
- Elon Musk says we need universal basic income because 'in the future, physical work will be a choice'on August 20, 2021 at 8:56 am
Elon Musk is working on a "friendly" robot that can perform "dangerous, repetitive, and boring tasks" — and take jobs away from humans.
- What is a universal basic income? And which countries are eyeing a trial?on August 20, 2021 at 4:45 am
The idea of free money for everyone may sound attractive but does a universal basic income live up to the billing? The Big Issue explains ...
via Bing News