The initial results from a landmark basic income trial in Finland have cast doubt on the increasingly popular concept’s viability as a large-scale solution to automation, despite improving wellbeing.

In the trial, 2,000 unemployed Finnish people were given a monthly flat rate of €560 (£490) instead of benefits payments, which was guaranteed regardless of whether they got a job or not.

It had been hoped that the safety net the money provided would lead to a greater level of employment among the trial participants, however the initial results show this has not been the case. It did, however, increased levels of happiness and wellbeing, indicating some positive potential for the concept.

How the Finland basic income trial put the concept to the test

The trial, which ran from January 2017 until December 2018, was designed to test the concept of basic income, sometimes known as universal basic income.

The concept has been proposed as a more stable alternative to benefits and social security in an era set for significant workforce upheaval as a result of automation, by providing all citizens with a monthly base income regardless of employment status.

The idea behind this is that it would eliminate barriers to personal and professional advancement by making it possible to improve skills or take on increasingly available insecure work, however the Finland basic income trial has cast doubt on this theory.

More trials needed

As one of the highest profile trials of basic income, the less than ideal results from the Finland trial do put wider support for basic income on shaky ground.

However, there is a need for more trials around the world, potentially over longer periods and with a more diverse group of participants, to more robustly test the theory.

Earlier this week the RSA called for basic income trials to be initiated in the UK, citing support for the theory from Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and the Scottish Government.

In August a survey of British citizens found that 41% were in support of some form of basic income to be made available after Brexit.