For the next two years, 2,000 unemployed people in Finland will share a special bond: Thanks to a new federal program, they will each receive a free $US600 per month, no questions asked.
Even if people get a job, the money will keep coming in.
The program, put on by the country’s social security agency, Kela, is testing out a modified version of basic income. Under basic income, every citizen gets a regular allowance regardless of employment status, in an attempt to improve overall well-being and reduce poverty.
The program is only 2 months old, but already people say the extra cash has changed their lives. Here are a handful of their stories.
Jarvinen, an entrepreneur and father of six, says he’d been dreaming of getting selected for the experiment after having been unemployed for the past five years. He’d been relying on his wife’s salary, in addition to child allowances and unemployment checks, to get by.
“What I will do in future? In next two years? I start new busines as soon as possible. Now I’m free for that,” Jarvinen wrote on his Facebook page. “I really feel I have got back my citizenship.”
For the last two years, Marttinen, a 34-year-old with a background in social work, has been looking for jobs in her field. She says the additional money eases some of the burden of looking for work, and also gives the jobless a lot of their dignity back.
“I’ve been thinking a lot of what separates me from another human,” she told HS, Finland’s largest newspaper, adding that any success or failure she experiences could easily happen to someone else.
A dad to two kids, Ruusunen worked as a baker until a couple years ago. He had actually started work in the IT sector when he got the letter saying he’d been selected for the basic income experiment, the Guardian reports.
The money is a bonus on top of his additional income — true to the spirit of basic income — but he says it could be life-saving for people (like Juha Jarvinen) who want to put on their entrepreneur hat.
“If someone wants to start their own business, you don’t get unemployment benefits even if you don’t have any income for six months,” he told the Guardian. The added money, he suggests, gives people room to take risks.
Mari Saarenpää lives about 300 miles north of Ruusunen. She’s in her mid-twenties. Saarenpää and her husband had their son Veeti when she was 19 years old, and so she was forced to quickly find work. In October of 2016, her retail summer job came to end.
Though the money is certainly welcome, she says a job would still make life more interesting.
“[It’s] a little lonely here … still the mornings, when the house is empty,” she told HS. “Work would be wonderful to get back.”
A new mum, Kultalahti-Singh told MTV toward the end of January that the new money will allow her to find more substantial work. (Like Mika Ruusunen, she, too, had found temporary work before receiving the letter in December.) She says the extra money will be a nice comfort if her pay remains low.
She said she hopes the system expands to include employed people as well.
“I hope that this will change the lives of so that if I work full time,” she told MTV, “then we may be able to live otherwise than in such a way that it all goes from hand to mouth.”