Finland’s basic income is making people happier and healthier
The initial results of an experiment to provide basic income for unemployed citizens in Finland indicate that people are happier and healthier when they know they’ll be receiving a certain dollar amount every month.
Starting in January 2017, the Finnish government chose 2000 unemployed people at random and gave them 560 euros ($842 CAD) a month. Although the main aim of the project was to boost employment numbers, the first results of the project that were released last week show it has been successful in a different way: recipients became happier.
According to Minna Ylikanno, lead researcher at the Finnish social services agency Kela, trial recipients reported fewer stress symptoms, less difficulty concentrating and better health than the control group. In addition to feeling less stressed, they also felt more confident about their futures and empowered to participate in their community.
The trial was launched in January 2017 and will continue until 2020. The results released last week about the pilot only reflect the first year of the program, with a final compete report expected in 2020.
Proponents of basic income models say that basic income allows recipients to be more entrepreneurial, and the data from Finland’s experiment supports that theory. One of the recipients in the pilot, Sini Marttinen, compared her experience to winning the lottery and said that it gave her the security to start her own business.
Many other places around the world are testing out basic income models, from the U.S. to India. As the global community is taking steps toward embracing basic income, Ontario’s regressive economic policies – including Doug Ford’s cancellation of the province’s basic income pilot in July 2018 – reflect poorly on Canada as a whole.
In a recent column from the Toronto Star, business columnist David Olive argues that Ford cannot use ignorance about the efficacy of universal basic income as a justification for cancelling Ontario’s pilot project. There’s a wealth of information about how basic income boosts the economy, balances social instability and encourages better health, housing and education outcomes for a society.
But maybe it isn’t just conservative political leaders who are fostering distrust in basic income projects. Much of the North American news coverage surrounding the basic income pilot in Finland has focused on the experiment’s alleged shortcomings, with headlines emphasizing neutral job creation numbers without reference to boosts in happiness and health. Whether the media is willing to report it or not, the evidence from Finland shows basic income is a net positive for working people.