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Universal basic income boosts wellbeing, but not employment

A ground-breaking trial to test the idea of giving everyone a universal basic income (UBI) has found it boosted mental health, but not employment.

The two-year trial, which ended in December, saw the government in Finland pay 2,000 randomly-selected unemployed people a monthly income of €560 (around £490) with no-strings attached.

Their experiences were then compared with a control group of 5,000 people who received state benefits instead.

According to the preliminary results, those on a basic income were no better or worse than the control group at finding employment in the open labour market.

The results found the recipients of a basic income had on average 0.5 days more in employment than the control group.

The average number of days in employment during the year was 49.64 days for the recipients of a basic income and 49.25 for the control group.

But the results also revealed that those on a basic income perceived their wellbeing as being better than did the control group.

More than half (55%) of the recipients of a basic income and 46% of the control group perceived their state of health as good or very good.

And almost one in five (17%) of the recipients of a basic income and 25% of the control group experienced quite a high degree or a very high degree of stress.

‘The recipients of a basic income had less stress symptoms as well as less difficulties to concentrate and less health problems than the control group. They were also more confident in their future and in their ability to influence societal issues’, said lead researcher, Minna Ylikännö.

Commenting on the results, the RSA’s director of action and research, Anthony Painter, said: ‘This data adds to the evidence base for a more humane welfare system and shows there is a strong case for basic income experiments in the UK.

‘It would be good to see “saturation pilots” in particular, in which everyone in a specific area receives a basic income. Five localities in the UK, four of which are in Scotland, have volunteered to explore hosting such a pilot. The UK government must support the Scottish Government’s exploration of a trial and act to establish pilots in the rest of the UK.

‘Critics of the idea of UBI often ask why the idea doesn’t just go away. Today’s evidence shows why. Basic income can be one of the answers to providing for greater economic security and well-being.’

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