Earlier this year, in an effort to learn about people’s work habits, Finland launched an experiment giving $600 to 2,000 unemployed Finns every month for two years.
Kela, the federal agency running the experiment, billed it as a modified version of the economic model known as universal basic income, though some people argued it didn’t qualify. Given people had to be unemployed, it wasn’t technically universal.
Juha Jarvinen, one of the 2,000 lucky recipients, was not one of those naysayers.
“I was dreaming to get into the test and now I’m here,” the 37-year-old entrepreneur and father of six wrote on his Facebook profile. “I can’t even believe.”
Jarvinen wrote that he had been unemployed for the last five years when he got wind he’d been selected as one of the beneficiaries. He started his business in 2010, but it went under within the first two years. He says he spent many hours at home, contemplating new ventures, but ultimately got by on his wife’s nursing salary and the combination of child allowances and unemployment checks.
“When I had that closure I was 6 months without any money,” he wrote. “For a father of 6 kids, that was a hard time.”
Finland’s experiment is testing whether people like Jarvinen will try to get back to work or sit idly by as the cash comes in. Earlier this month, Marjukka Turunen, the head of Kela’s legal benefits unit, told Business Insider the outcomes could skew in either direction.
Except for some preliminary data in developing countries, the data aren’t so clear. “Some people might stay on their couches, and some might go to work,” Turunen said. “We don’t know yet.”
Jarvinen, at least, says he plans to use the money to put his entrepreneur hat back on.
“What I will do in future? In next two years? I start new busines as soon as possible. Now I’m free for that,” he wrote. “I really feel I have got back my citizenship.”
A number of basic income recipients have echoed that sentiment of reclaiming a sense of freedom. Frans Kerver, a freelance copywriter living in the Netherlands, got his basic income for two years between July of 2014 and 2016. The additional $1,100 let him shave several hours from his weekly workload and, in turn, spend more time with his family, he told Business Insider in March of 2016.
And in Kenya, members of a cash transfer program put on by the charity GiveDirectly have repeatedly said their quality of life has gone up. With a few hundred extra dollars, people can rebuild roofs, expand their farming, and send their kids to school.
Jarvinen and 1,999 other people are likely to see similar boosts as the money comes in until 2019.
“In next few weeks and months I am starting my own busines[sic],” he wrote. “So so happy after 5 years. And just because I got basic income.”
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