Finland plans a citizen’s income

For decades people have been discussing the citizen’s income – a guaranteed minimum income paid by the state to every citizen, with no strings attached, and replacing much of the welfare system. In Britain it was most recently raised as a Green Party policy, but it’s one of those rare ideas that has been championed across the political spectrum. The Republicans have discussed it and got closest to implementing it under Nixon. Britain’s Labour party flirted with it in the 1950s. Napoleon considered it. Here’s Martin Luther King on the subject. George Monbiot of the Guardian and Tim Worstall of Forbes, two columnists with polar opposite views of the world, are united in their enthusiasm for a basic income.

For something that so many people can agree on, it’s remarkable that nobody has ever actually tried it. There have been similar ideas in sharing mineral wealth, such as Alaska’s permanent fund. There have been experiments in development aid, and the evidence suggests that just making direct payments to poor households works very well. Switzerland and the Netherlands have both come very close in the last couple of years, but nobody’s gone for the big one – a national basic income, unconditional and universal.

Until this week that is, when Finland announced that it was planning to sweep away benefits and replace them with a payment of 800 Euros a month to everyone. That’s £576 or $870 – enough for someone to live on if they had to, but not enough for people to stop working. That’s the plan at least.

Apparently 69% of Finns support the idea, so it will be interesting to see if actually happens this time. Full proposals will be laid out over the next few months and voted on next year. If they go for it, we’ll have a test case on whether it works or not. And if it does, they won’t be the last country to adopt a citizen’s income.

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3 Comments on “Finland plans a citizen’s income”

  1. Neil December 8, 2015 at 4:59 pm #

    Since I’ve heard about this idea I’ve always thought it was a no brainer. Whether its affordable in a post oil world of course is open to debate.


  1. One thing we have learnt this week - volunteering - The oil lamp - shining God's light on peak oilThe oil lamp – shining God's light on peak oil - December 18, 2015

    […] The final question was interestingly raised in the programme.  As a Christian I have pondered this.  When I am in charge of the cooking at home time and later I feel a great sense of pride and satisfaction of having catered for 120 guests and 30 volunteers.  Less so when I help and others are leaving.  Am I wrong to feel this?  Should I recognise this as being down to God?  Does it affect me wanting to do the volunteering?  These are still questions I am working through but in the meantime I see volunteering as having a role in any society.  Its also a good reason for a citizen’s income. […]

  2. What we learned this week | Make Wealth History - January 10, 2016

    […] on the heels of Finland, Holland is experimenting with the basic income […]

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