July 20, 2019

In Finland, Money Buys Happiness

“The first results of Finland’s two-year experiment with a universal basic income are in, and if they’re confirmed by further research, they will probably hurt the unconditional income cause. The trial run showed that “money for nothing” makes people happier but doesn’t inspire them to find work any more than traditional unemployment benefits would.

The Finnish experiment, conducted in 2017 and 2018 by Kela, the country’s social insurance institution, was extremely important for world policy makers looking at variations of unconditional income as a way to offset job losses brought on by technological change. So far, the only other large-scale experiment in a wealthy Western nation that could have rivaled it took place in the Canadian province of Ontario; participants were recruited by April 2018 – but after a change of government, the trial is being wound down prematurely. This means the only solid data for researchers interested in how UBI works in industrialized nations are from Finland.

Perhaps the most important parameters for policy makers in those data concern the unconditional income’s effect on employment and on the government’s social spending. On both these counts, the Finnish experiment failed to produce a breakthrough for UBI proponents, in part because of its flawed design.”

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