Finland kicked off its basic income program Monday, giving US$587 per month to 2,000 of its citizens, an amount that — if extended to the entire adult population — will be guaranteed regardless of income, wealth or employment status.
The trial program will run for a period of two years. Participants were randomly selected, but had to be receiving unemployment benefits or an income subsidy to be eligible.
The government said it had chosen the figure for an unconditional basic income in line with a manifesto pledge by centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipila, who took office late 2015. If the idea proves to be successful it will be expanded to all adults in Finland.
The idea of a universal basic income has been gaining traction around the world, as introducing such a system has been discussed in Canada, Iceland, Uganda and Brazil.
Advocates of the program point to the success of a basic income program currently in the Italian city of Livorno, where its 200 poorest families are currently receiving some US$500 per month.
The government hopes that the program will reduce unemployment, as people will be more inclined to take on odd or low-paying jobs with less worry about losing benefits.
"Incidental earnings do not reduce the basic income," said Marjukka Turunen, the head of the legal unit at Kela, Finland's social insurance agency. "So working and ... self-employment are worthwhile no matter what."
In June, voters in Switzerland decisively rejected a far more generous proposal to pay a monthly US$2,500 to each adult.