Tag Archives: Finland

Finland: A Pioneer in Universal Basic Income

coat_of_arms_of_finlandOn January 1, 2017, the idea of universal basic income (UBI) took another small but significant leap forward, in Finland.

UBI is a form of social security where a government institution pays its citizens a regular, unconditional sum.

Finland is testing UBI by handing around $600 per month to 2,000 jobless Finns for the next two years. It’s a bold experiment aimed at helping the long-term unemployed.

From Business Insider:

Finland has an ambitious New Year’s resolution in mind: learn how offering free money for two years helps the unemployed get back to work.

Starting January 1, 2017 and lasting until 2019, the federal social security institution Kela will distribute roughly $590 each month to 2,000 jobless Finns.

Regardless of whether they find work during that period, the money will keep coming in at the beginning of each month — a trial version of basic income, one of the past year’s most popular theories of how to solve poverty.

Under universal basic income (UBI), people receive a standard amount of money just for being alive. By handing out the money to everyone, regardless of their income status, UBI advocates say the system prevents people from falling through the cracks.

Marjukka Turunen, head of Kela’s legal benefits unit, says the experiment in Finland should provide insights on two fronts.

The first is whether basic income could help clean up Finland’s messy system of social security. Depending on their specific needs, Turunen says residents could be on one of 40 different benefit systems. Each benefit — whether it’s for someone who’s sick, unemployed, a student, or so on— is calculated differently and must be changed when the person’s status changes.

“That’s really a burden for customers and Kela to do all those status changes,” Turunen tells Business Insider. A form of basic income could mean people just need to apply for one status indefinitely, no changes required.

The experiment will also provide clues about how people behave when they’re receiving free money. Skeptics say people will sit on their couch all day. Proponents claim they’ll actually use the money to make their lives better. (Limited evidence from developing countries suggests it’s more of the latter.)

Turunen suspects the experiment will compel at least a few wannabe entrepreneurs to make the leap into starting their own business — a risky proposition in Finland today since business owners who are forced to close shop don’t receive unemployment benefits. It’s not unlike the system in place in most US states.

Read the entire story here.

Image: Finland coat of arms. Courtesy: Vzb83 / Wipipedia. Public Domain.

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Stuff. And Giving It Up

This is the fascinating story of  Petri Luukkainen, a documentary film-maker from Helsinki, Finland. One day he decided to give up all his possessions — everything. He put all his stuff in storage for a year, carefully removing only one item each day. His reasoning: to determine what was really necessary to his daily needs, and what wasn’t.

From the Telegraph:

Like many of us, Petri Luukkainen felt he had too much stuff. Unlike many of us, he decided to put it all in storage for a year, removing one item per day in order to discover what he really needed to live comfortably. The result is the documentary My Stuff, released in Luukkainen’s native Finland two years ago and in the UK this weekend.

The film, an experimental documentary in the style of Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me, begins with the 29-year-old naked in his empty Helsinki flat. From there he runs across icy streets to the depot where his belongings are stored, the first of which he takes being a long coat – preserving his modesty and providing a makeshift sleeping bag for the first night. On the second day he takes shoes, on the third a blanket and on the fourth jeans.

Half way through the year he falls in love, leading to a dilemma over whether he should replace his new girlfriend’s fridge – another rule of the project is that he’s not allowed to buy anything new – or to fix it at greater expense. Later, Luukkainen’s grandmother is taken ill and has to move into a care home, meaning he has to go to her old flat to sort through her stuff. The events provide the documentary with such a satisfying narrative that some critics have suggested the film is semi-scripted, though Luukkainen insists it is all real.

The conclusion he comes to at the end of the year is probably what he suspected at the beginning: that possession is a responsibility and “stuff” is a burden. He does, however, provide a couple of figures which may be of help for anyone thinking about decluttering. Luukkainen found he could get by with 100 things (including swimming trunks, trainers, a debit card and a phone) but needed 200 to live with some “joy and comfort” (a third spoon, an electric kettle and a painting).

Speaking from Helsinki ahead of his film’s UK release, the documentary-maker claims the project itself was not something he was particularly proud of. “My problem was that I had too much of everything. It’s not the worst problem and it’s not being noble to give some of it up for a time.”

Whatever the seriousness of the problem, the international interest in the film suggests it is one many of us in the West face, and Luukkainen says he has been contacted by people across Europe who have been inspired to take on similar experiments. “I’d love to be part of a movement but I’m not sure My Stuff is,” he says. “All I want to do is get people to think about what they have and what they need, because it’s not something I thought about at all before I did this film.”

For those who feel like they might have too much stuff, Luukkainen suggests spending some time apart from it, though doesn’t advise going to the extreme of putting it all in storage. Put it in a cupboard, and if its appeal fades with absence, give it away.

Read the entire story here.

Video: My Stuff by Petri Luukkainen.

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