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Finland's basic income organisers correct inaccurate media reports of trial's premature death

Finland's social insurance agency says the country's basic income experiment is alive and well, and will be continued to its completion at the end of this year.

Mies aukaisee Kelan ovea.
File photo. Image: Ismo Pekkarinen / AOP

Many international media outlets have been very keen on reporting about Finland's two-year test run of Universal Basic Income (UBI) ever since the trial began more than a year ago.

However, according to the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (Kela), many of those media outlets appear to have misunderstood recent developments in the trial.

The government has decided not to expand the programme, but the trial is still under way, according to Kela.

Professor Olli Kangas, head of Kela's research team, said the experiment will run as planned, and is not being prematurely halted.

"The effects of the experiment will not be published while the experiment is in progress, because a public discussion of the results could influence the behaviour of the test and control groups. That would lead to skewed results" Kangas said in a Kela press release on the matter.

Kela said that while there are no immediate plans to continue or expand the programme after the end of the trial, the effects of the previous two years' trials will be studied.

It said the data it manages to collect and analyse would be released by the end of 2019 or the start of 2020.

What is the basic income experiment?

At the end of 2016, Kela announced that it had chosen 2,000 unemployed people to take part in a trial which would grant them some 560 euros per month free of any obligation for two years, even if they were temporarily or permanently employed during the test period.

Kela explained that the experiment aims to see how such an arrangement would work on a larger scale, and whether it would help people return to the working world more quickly than using traditional unemployment subsidies and the hurdles involved in keeping them arriving.

UBI has been hailed by some - particularly futurists and those in the high tech world - as an answer to the problems posed by an ever-automated working world.

As the technology of robotics and artificial intelligence advance and become an increasing part of the workforce, the futurists often purport, millions of people around the world will lose their jobs and will need some sort of income.

For some of those CEOs and tech futurists, including Tesla's Elon Musk and Ray Kurzweil, UBI is often seen as a panacea to an advancing, uncertain future.

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