Finland and Canada, First to Measure Universal Basic Income Viability

Finland and Canada, First to Measure Universal Basic Income Viability

While robots keeps gaining value as a more effective and cheaper workforce in almost every economic sector, decision-makers all over the world try to figure out what to do with those millions of jobs that are at risk of being wiped out, with dreadful consequences for their future unemployed holders.

One of the answers that is getting more interest by not only governments but also high-rated business-men is Universal Basic Income. This benefits system is based on a very basic principle: to provide a standard amount of income to all citizens without any further requirement. In a Universal Basic Income-like scenario, citizens wouldn’t need to link their seeking-for-a-job effort to receive a continuous and endless amount of money from the National Treasury.

Although a fully implemented UBI is yet to be discerned in the near future, governments are starting to get the ground ready with ongoing experiments in different countries around the globe. These experiments might be found crucial for the time ahead as developments in technologies such Artificial Intelligence and Robotisation are gaining incredible momentum. In fact, recent figures show that by the year 2030, more than 800 million jobs are at risk of being taken by machines.

For that reason, and for getting one step ahead to prevent possible loss of income in the overall citizenship, many UBI experiments are currently going on in Western Countries with the governments of Finland and Canada being the most active about it.

Finland’s Experiment

In first place, Finland deserves a special mention due to its long-running effort and all-in policy. This small Scandinavian country launched the trial in the beginning of last year by picking up 2,000 unemployed Finnish ranged between 25-58 years old. They were to receive tax-free €560 (£490) on a monthly basis.

Finland’s authorities aimed to rise up the life standards of these individuals while pulling down the high unemployment rates that the country is facing, stabilized now at 8.5 per cent. According to a recent article published by the Independent, “supporters of a basic income would help get unemployed people into temporary jobs, rather than forcing them to remain unemployed to qualify for benefits.”

They even say “it would provide a safety net, address insecurities associated with workers not having full-time staff contracts, and help boost mobility in the labour market as people would have a source of income between jobs.”

However, Universal Basic Income means a great effort from the national economy. With no immediate results, and being given tax-free, the Finnish Government has been going through a lot of pressure until a point that they have decided to end it the upcoming  December 2018.

Authorities have rejected the idea of the experiment being a failure and have argued that they won’t  process any conclusions until 2020 to avoid preliminary misconceptions on the overall study.

It would be important, though, to see how whether this extra-income has indeed helped those individuals finding more suitable jobs according to their careers, or if they have used the money and time off to keep improving their skills at Universities. It would be also interesting to see if, as some past researchers found in the 60’s and 70’s, communities that are receiving UBI go less to hospitals and commit less crimes, making it an important pro point for further experiments.

Canada’s Experiment with UBI

Rising in living standards and, ultimately, saving money in health and security, is exactly what Canada is after with its new trial with UBI, taking place in Lindsay, Ontario. In this small town in the north-east of Toronto, over 4,000 people have been selected by local authorities to conduct a three-year UBI experiment. Funded by the Provincial Government, the individuals will get, in monthly statements, at least 75 percent of the poverty line in universal income. In this small town, approximately 10 percent of its population will receive around $17,000 in Canadian dollars (£10,000) a year. A huge effort and one of the biggest UBI cases until date.

This case, covered by the MIT magazine, highlights what is triggering these experiments, the upcoming loss of millions of jobs and, more importantly, a potential lack of motivation and creativity. “Even if a basic income turns out to be a flexible and efficient government program, it’s not clear that it would be a great way to respond to technological unemployment,” they write.

And they added that this is a long-distance race between our current living standards and the near future, “while giving poor people money helps them, it still leaves urgent and difficult questions unanswered about the impacts of automation and globalization. What will it take to ensure that entire regions aren’t left far behind economically? What can be done to boost the supply of good, steady jobs? Basic income is only the beginning,” they stated.