2016: the year of the Universal Basic Income?

Photo: Miemo Penttinen
Photo: Miemo Penttinen

2016 could truly be the first year of the Universal Basic Income (otherwise known as the Citizen’s Income).  This year, Finland may become the first nation state to commit to the introduction of a basic income for all of its citizens.  This is hugely exciting for those of us who have been pushing countries to adopt it as a response to the financial crisis and increasing mechanisation in the workplace.

For the uninitiated, a basic income is a sum of money given to every citizen of a country on a regular basis, regardless of whether they are employed or not.  There have been many basic income experiments, including in Namibia and India (both of which were very successful in alleviating poverty, reducing bureaucracy and sparking enterprise) but this will be the first time it has been implemented across the whole population of a developed country. The Finnish plan could see every Finn given between €500 and €2000 every month.

The prospect of a basic income being implemented in Finland is thrilling, although there is cause for caution.  The basic income commitment was included in a small, dark corner of Finland’s Programme for Government, and while the Centre Party and the Prime Minister, Juha Sipilä, are in favour of a basic income, their coalition partners (the right-wing Finns Party and the conservative NCP) have not indicated whether they would support it or not.

However, that the basic income is on the programme at all should be celebrated; an indication that this emancipatory ideal is gaining some traction in mainstream politics.  If the experiment is implemented, the fruits could be even greater, not least because of the domino effect it is likely to have.  As basic income campaigner Scott Santens told the Keiser Report just before Christmas, Switzerland is considering implementing a universal basic income as well. Several Dutch towns — including the city of Utrecht — are implementing a scheme which is some way towards a universal basic income.

Could other countries follow if Finland succeeds? Only time will tell.  In the meantime, let’s hope Finland gives the basic income the blast-off in 2016 that the idea has been deprived of in the past.

Now read our exploration of the Universal Basic Income.

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Jon Holiday

Jon commentates on the ways culture and politics interact.

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