Finland Gave People Free Cash. Here's What's Happened So Far

They're not working much more, but they are happier and less stressed
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 8, 2019 10:56 AM CST
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What would you do if you had $635 coming in for free each month?   (Getty Images/alfexe)

(Newser) – Finland's basic-income experiment is one year into its two-year trial run, and the results so far are a mixed bag. In a European first, 2,000 or so out-of-work Finnish citizens between the ages of 25 and 58 were guaranteed a monthly tax-free paycheck of about $635 from the government for the next 24 months, with that regular cash flow not contingent on finding a job, per NBC News. Positive prognosticators believed that more people would take entrepreneurial risks and start businesses, knowing they'd still have money coming in no matter what happened; the long-term goal would be to diminish the number living below the poverty line and help bolster the middle class. Those with more pessimistic leanings, however, predicted basic-income recipients would just glide by on their free money and not seek employment.

And in that regard, the critics, so far, seem to be on the winning end. Per Pirkko Mattila, the country's health and social services chief, "the impact on employment seems to have been minor" for the first half of the experiment. But if Marie Kondo were to rate the experiment, she'd keep it, because it also apparently sparks joy: Participants reported being happier, healthier, and less stressed. "I think the effect was a lot psychological," one former IT worker tells Reuters, noting that she's also since stopped receiving benefits because the basic income gave her the boost she needed to open up a restaurant with friends; she calls taking part in the experiment akin to "winning the lottery." The news agency notes that other countries are closely watching how the Finland project ultimately fares. (The trial won't be expanded beyond the two years, at least for now.)

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