February 7, 2019

Calls for UK basic income pilot ahead of Finnish results

By Lucy Ingham

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) has called for the establishment of a UK basic income pilot the day before the results of a similar trial in Finland are announced.

The concept, which was been conceived to help shield the blow from job loss and reduced working opportunities as a result of automation, involves replacing benefits and all other social security payments with a flat payment, available to all citizens.

This would be paid regardless of employment status, giving workers the freedom to gain new skills and develop their careers without risking financial insecurity.

However, others have questioned the financial viability of the concept.

The RSA, which has been vocal in its support of basic income for some time, argues that the UK should conduct its own trials into basic income, particularly in light of issues surrounding the recently introduced Universal Credit system.

“Basic income is being considered by the Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, the Scottish Government, and has long been supported by the Green Party,” said Anthony Painter, director of the RSA’s Action and Research Centre.

“The palpable and relentlessly documented failings of the current welfare system, and concerns over economic security more widely, have moved the basic income conversation to the political mainstream in the past two or three years.”

Calls for UK basic income pilot as Finnish trial data published

Tomorrow, Friday 8 February, will see the results of a high-profile trial in Finland published for the first time.

This saw 2,000 unemployed people receive €560 (£490) a month instead of their usual benefits for a period of two years. However, they kept receiving the money regardless of whether they gained employment or not.

The results of the trial are likely to be key in determining whether the concept attracts serious interests elsewhere. A good result is likely to trigger other similar trials around the world, whereas negative results could be immensely damaging to the concept’s chances of long-term success.

“Inevitably the initial data from the Finnish trials due to be released on Friday will attract huge interest, said Painter.

“We should engage with the Finnish trial as one among many approaches – both past and future – and ask ourselves, what sort of supports do we really want to see to help people navigate their lives and work amid a multiplicity of challenges?

“Past experiments suggest that basic income aids well-being by providing essential support for economic security. Let’s keep testing and see how we can develop a much stronger foundation than the current system provides.”