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Finland experiments with $600-a-month basic income for unemployed

Andrew V. Pestano

Some 2,000 unemployed Finnish citizens will receive nearly $600 a month for the next two years as part of an experiment into universal basic income. The experiment began Sunday, the start of the New Year. File Photo by martaposmuckel/Pixabay
For 2,000 unemployed citizens in Finland, the New Year is bringing a monthly basic income benefit of nearly $600 as part of an entitlement experiment.
The two-year pilot program will give 560 euros to the unemployed Finnish citizens ages 25 to 58. The program replaces other social benefits.
The recipients will continue to receive the benefit even if they find employment. The first payments began on Sunday -- the first day of 2017.
The program is run by Kela, one of Finland's social security agencies.
"For someone receiving a basic income, there are no repercussions if they work a few days or a couple of weeks," Marjukka Turunen, head of Kela's Legal Affairs Unit, said in a statement. "Incidental earnings do not reduce the basic income, so working and self-employment are worthwhile no matter what."
Turunen said she hopes the experiment will help Finnish officials make the country's social security system more efficient, which is complicated as there could be up to 40 different benefit systems for an individual. Each benefit -- whether it's illness, unemployment, for a student, for the elderly, etc. -- is calculated differently and changes depending on the beneficiary's status.
"That's really a burden for customers and Kela to do all those status changes," Turunen told Business Insider. "The system nowadays, it's pretty negative for people who try to do something -- even little -- in their lives and get something out of it."
The experiment may also provide insight on how people behave when provided with a basic income. Skeptics argue people who receive free money would rather remain unemployed, while proponents argue those people would use that money to make their lives better, such as by launching business ventures.
"Some people might stay on their couches, and some might go to work," Turunen said. "We don't know yet."

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