Universal Basic Income boosted wellbeing and trust in Finland trial

The results of the two-year experiment also showed increased employment, albeit for an average of just six days, as the policy continues to divide UK leaders

People on a basic income were happier, had greater trust of other people and institutions and were more confident in their ability to take control of their own future, according to the results of the Universal Basic Income trial in Finland.

The biggest basic income experiment of its kind also showed a small increase in employment after 2,000 people were given €560 (£490) every month for two years.

However, people worked for on average just six days more than the control group who did not receive the unconditional cash, although researchers noted that families with children saw employment rates increase over both years of the study.

On the wellbeing front, people who received basic income reported less mental strain, depression, sadness and loneliness as well as more positive perception of their ability to learn and concentrate.

That positive outlook extended to their income and economic wellbeing too, according to Minna Ylikännö, Head of the Research Team at Kela (the Social Insurance Institution of Finland), and they were more likely to find their financial situation manageable.

It was found that a basic income provided the foundation that allowed those on the trial to trust other people and the institutions in society to a larger extent and they were more confident in their own future and their ability to influence. Researchers theorised that this may be due to the basic income being unconditional rather than being subject to sanctions, which in previous studies has been seen to increase people’s trust in the system.

Even getting a small amount of money has a big effect on people’s agency and sense of control, especially those in real trouble

The results for the first year of the trial were released in February last year before today’s release completed the overall picture.

And they arrive at a crucial time when the debate for a Universal Basic Income has hit the headlines once more as campaigners urge the UK Government to adopt UBI to prevent Brits falling into poverty in the Covid-19 crisis. Chancellor Rishi Sunak has repeatedly turned down the idea, citing the expense as well as the time it would take to implement as people have turned to Universal Credit in their droves. More than 1.8 million claims have been made to receive the controversial benefit since March 16.

But the results from Finland will make interesting reading for Nicola Sturgeon. The Scottish Government has been more open to the idea of a Universal Basic Income and has been researching how to make it happen for some time.

Anthony Painter, chief research and impact officer at the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, is urging leaders across the UK to adopt the policy.

“Wellbeing is a vital measure of economic insecurity,” he said. The Finnish Basic Income trials results published today show the importance of getting cash to people now. Even getting a small amount of money has a big effect on people’s agency and sense of control, especially those in real trouble, who this experiment focused on.

“The scheme did not have the negative effects on employment; if anything, it was positive – an important rebuke to those who think it would lead to more people being lazy.

“More basic income experiments are needed in the UK. RSA modelling for Scotland’s proposed pilots found an initial basic income of £48 per week would be affordable – largely funded by turning the personal allowance into a cash payment, fiscally progressive for low-and-middle earners, and halve destitution overnight. We need to explore this model being applied across the UK as part of a new social contract for Britain’s recovery after Covid-19 as the furlough scheme is wound down.”

The importance of wellbeing is not lost on The Big Issue. It plays a key role in Big Issue founder Lord John Bird’s Future Generations Bill which aims to make government departments set wellbeing goals that they must stick to in order to build a better Britain for the people who follow.

Celebrated economic powerhouse Rutger Bregman has also led calls for a Universal Basic Income in a piece penned exclusively for The Big Issue as part of our After The Virus series.