Finland dropping universal basic income test program: Report

Finland is ending a test program that provides guaranteed income to unemployed citizens, according to new reports.

Universal basic income is a modern welfare scheme through which citizens are granted a consistent, livable income from the government, without condition. Finland adopted its program in 2017, giving 2000 randomly selected, unemployed citizens about $670 each month for two years. That money is not taxed by the government.

While the program gained global notoriety as economies across the globe grapple with changing labor force trends, members of Finland’s welfare bureau have reportedly said the country’s government will not continue with the program in its current form.

”Right now, the government is making changes that are taking the system further away from a basic income,” a welfare researcher told the Swedish daily Svenska Dagbladet, as reported by Business Insider.

It was expected that the welfare program would be expanded to include employed citizens early this year, though that change never manifested. No findings from the test program have been published so far.

The idea of a guaranteed income has become popular, particularly as the prospects of automation displacing workers in the labor force increases. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has voiced support for the concept, alongside Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Supporters and critics disagree over whether the system would incentivize citizens to maintain or find work.

Stockton, California, which declared bankruptcy in 2012, recently began testing universal basic income, giving $500 each month to several dozen families in a year-long program. The project is largely being funded with private money.

Other California cities, including San Francisco, have expressed interest in similar programs.