Why are people in Finland getting paid to do nothing?


Finland has launched its new Universal Basic Income scheme - a controversial idea to replace other benefits with a single annual payment to those out of work.

Here's everything you need to know about the system, including whether it works and if it could ever be a reality here.

How much cash will they actually get?

Around 2,000 unemployed citizens will get EUR560 - or £475 - a month. The payments will continue even if they find work, and the trial lasts for two years. If successful, the pilot scheme could expand to include every adult in the Finnish population of 5.5 million.

Why is it happening?

When the scheme was announced, the Finnish government emphasised that it was an experiment. The aim was to see whether giving jobless citizens a basic income would promote employment.

The key is that claimants won't lose their payments if they find work, which the government hopes will encourage them to seek employment. Under the current system, even a part-time job can endanger vital welfare payments for some citizens.

The Finnish government already has a complicated welfare system, and the scheme could save money on the admin involved in administering multiple benefits.

Will it work?

Euros being withdrawn from an ATM
(Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock)

Anthony Painter, a director at the Royal Society of the Arts, which is pushing for a Universal Income in the UK, thinks so.

He said: "If you want to incentivise work at every level of income then Basic Income is simply the best system."

There's a strong argument that setting a basic income reduces benefit fraud as payments are automatic.

Is it happening anywhere else?

Brazil, India and Canada have flirted with the idea, but the closest thing to a real Universal Basic Income scheme is in the US state of Alaska. Authorities there decided to save and invest 25% of oil revenue, and spend the income on residents.

This year, everyone in Alaska who has lived there for more than a year was given $1,022, down from $2,072 in 2015 (due to the state's $4 billion deficit).

The scheme is often credited with keeping the poorest Alaskans above the poverty line.

Could it ever happen in the UK?

A high street in Glasgow.
(Michael Curi/Flickr)

Universal Basic Income trials are closer than you might think. Two Scottish councils, Glasgow and Fife, have voted to try schemes later this year once they secure funding.

Others are resigned to the idea spreading worldwide, given the increase in workplace automation. Tesla chief Elon Musk told CNBC: "There is a pretty good chance we end up with a Universal Basic Income, or something like that, due to automation."