It was never about a basic basic income for everyone, says Mar Jukka Turunen. It has led to the introduction of the pilot project on basic income in Finland She needs to know. At a conference in Caux at Lake Geneva, I spoke to her a few days ago.
The Basic income in Finland was always thought of by the government only for unemployed people, stresses Mar. Certain other groups in society were still in the discussion. But it was never about a ubi, Universal Basic Income, a general basic income.
A few months ago, the media reported that the pilot project in Finland would be terminated prematurely, the government would consider it failed or would have changed its direction in basic income. What about these reports?
Nothing, says Mar Jukka, nothing. The project will be evaluated as planned by the end of 2018. This will take some time. Then the government will decide what happens. I think it’ll take more time, suspects.
In April 2015, a new government was elected in Finland. It consists of a coalition of three parties. After some of the parties and within the parties, the government decided to start a basic income with a pilot project. This project looks like: 2.000 randomly selected unemployed receive a basic income of EUR 560 for two years instead of the basic amount of the 560 euro assistance. If you take a job, you will receive the basic income. That’s the difference to unemployment benefit. This is supposed to be an incentive to take a job, even if it is not so well paid because you do not lose the basic income, unlike unemployment assistance, but continue to receive it, and so it has enough money to live with a low paid job. Even with a better paid job you just have 560 euros more every month. By the end of 2018.
I ask Mar Jukka: if the government decides to introduce the basic income after the pilot project, it would be nothing but what is now being tested? Then it would only be for all the unemployed?
Yeah, says Mar Jukka, that would be like we’re testing it now. Except for unemployed people who do not have work, they should also get freelancers, supplemented Mar. They earn money in a month, and they don’t have one again. They must submit a bill for each amount they are taking, the office must recalculate each month, how much they are entitled to the unemployed cash, they must audition, demonstrate that they are seeking a better paid job, perhaps on programmes to participate. This must all be reviewed.
In a month, they earn so much that they don’t apply as unemployed. Then you have to log out. But two months later, your revenue is not enough and you have to log in again with all the bureaucratic effort. If they get a regular basic income of EUR 560, no matter what they deserve, without conditions, without being reported unemployed, it saves a lot of bureaucracy for you and for the office. We can leave them in peace, the money comes automatically, you can be sure of it, says Mar Jukka.
What is the main objective of the Finnish government with the basic income?
The fact that people take a job confirms Mar Jukka to reduce unemployment. The second main objective, she says, is simplification and savings in bureaucracy. The basic amount for unemployed is 560 euros so far. But that’s not enough to live. Unemployed people need to apply for further training There are many different funds and programs for it. Overall, an unemployed person receives about 960 euros a month. With the abolition of the basic amount for unemployed, replaced by the basic income, we also want to reduce the many different benefits to only four or five.
I think that if an unemployed person has the basic income that does not make any demands, then he has the benefits to live. They’re connected to conditions. Thus, the basic income does not help him as long as he is reported unemployed. So it is only one point that an unemployed person reserves the basic income when he accepts a job and is no longer unemployed.
To this end, Mar Jukka explains to me more precisely how the rules of the existing system are:
An unemployed person has been able to earn 300 euros so far without being cut in benefits. Any euro earned in addition reduces its unemployment benefit by 50 cents.
If one is expected to do this, it comes out that, according to the existing rule, it is better to earn up to 1100 euros a month than with the basic income. If the new rule does not maintain the same allowance of EUR 300 and the same 50 % reduction in each additional euro, in relation to the amount of approximately 400 euro, the basic amount of the unemployed is 560 euros beyond. But we didn’t go into detail that far. Some questions don’t fall until later.
But another question remains the same. If the government was to introduce the basic income only for unemployed people, there would be more and more people who were unemployed, who received basic income, had a job and had more than 560 euros per month on equal work and equal pay, As others who were not unemployed. This creates inequality in society. This, confirmed by Mar Jukka, is an important question that we also face and have not yet discussed. I do not know, she says how the government will solve this, but I would suggest limiting the payment of the basic income to one or two years. Inequality is also the strongest argument of the opponents of the basic income. The Constitution requires equal treatment for all citizens, explains Mar. It makes it so hard to give it to specific groups in the population, like students or single parents.
If unemployed people receive and retain basic income, if they accept a job, unemployment could be called the gateway to basic income. The Finns could come to report to unemployed, then to resume their work and to have 560 euros every month. If the basic income is not temporary. But if it is temporary, I may have accepted a low-paid work that I can only afford because I have the basic income in addition, and I do not have that anymore, the income is not enough to live and I have to go back to the Log in. And the same procedure goes from the front. Perhaps some of them will have to be unemployed every two years in order to get the basic income new and to continue their work.
It is a matter of unconditional basic income, it is his being to be for all and a lifetime. You fight the idea when you shorten it and clip it. And yet a little use of it will have to get the old one that is no longer true.
If the facts do not match the theory – so worse for the facts – the philosopher Friedrich Hegel noticed.
The time-limit, for life too low and paid only in a particular situation, is still in line with the idea of social assistance. It should lead to savings there. The idea of social assistance is no longer the facts. Mar says: Finland has a developed social system. Some of them have already set themselves up. In this respect, the aid in social distress is intended only for a short transition period.
That is why the unconditional basic income is not really considered. Instead of seeing the phenomenon and finding a new form, it is held in shape and the phenomenon is squeezed. It is held on the theory of social assistance and the primacy of employment. If a basic income is limited or otherwise limited, the problems only move around and create new ones. Instead of seeing the basic income as a transitional incentive for job acceptance for a part of the population, it should be seen as a transitional period to an unconditional basic income for all.
Source – This an edited version of the article published by Enno Schmidt.
Photo credit – Janne Wolterbeek