Move over, Minimum Wage; here’s Basic Income


You have heard of minimum wage, and all sorts of government subsidies, benefits, allowances, assistance, payments and the like.

What if instead of all these sometimes very complicated and complex schemes, you had just one?

Well, enter the Basic Income.

It is actually not a new idea but has come more into the spotlight in recent times, particularly in Finland.

But before we go there and see what actually is happening, a little understanding of what Basic Income means is in order.

According to the Finnish paper, the Helsinki Times, a Basic Income is a monthly payment from the State.

You don’t need to apply for it because everyone will get it, whether they are a billionaire or a pauper living on the streets.

The Basic Income is a benefit for just being in Finland.

And what is the purpose of such a scheme?

It is to enable everyone to live a decent, albeit frugal, life.

“The basic income is designed to be paid to every person, regardless of need,” the Helsinki Times says. “In its pure form it would be enough for anyone to live frugally. With a basic income all other transfer payments would cease.”

“All such programmes would be unnecessary, because every person would automatically receive enough to cover basic living expenses.”

It all sounds rather wonderful, really, unlike the present systems around the world where it can be unwieldy, with would-be recipients of government aid having to go through a battery of tests and what not just to qualify.

So, how much exactly would a person receive in the Basic Income scheme?

Well, different figures have been thrown up by different politicians in Findland – some say 440 euros is enough, others prefer 850 to 1,000 euros for a decent living.

“To completely eliminate poverty, everyone should receive 1,166 euros monthly,” the Helsinki Times says.

But will anyone actually implement such a scheme?

A variance of it is found elsewhere in the world, such as in the American state of Alaska where citizens receive US$900 each year. It is not to afford a decent living, of course, but it is a benefit for living a resource-rich area of the country.

Now, Finland has moved a little closer to making the scheme a reality.

Following its general elections in April, a new government has been formed, led by the Centre Party and its new prime minister, Juha Sipila.

Mr Sipila is a proponent of the Basic Income scheme even when he was in opposition.

In fact, most of the major parties in Finland support the scheme and had called for its implementation, albeit in experiments in selected areas of the country for a start.

And this is what Mr Sipila is now embarking on, apparently.

On Tuesday, he announced that his new government would commit itself to the “Basic Income Experiment”.

But there is a catch: ‘The commitment consists of one line: ‘Implement a Basic Income experiment’, in the ‘Health and Welfare’ section of the programme,” theBasic Income website says.

“Nonetheless, this marks the first commitment from a European country to implement a Basic Income experiment and will be the first experiment in a developed nation since the 1970s.”

Finns would be happy – an earlier survey found that almost 80 per cent of them support the scheme if it “guarantees minimum subsistence, reduces bureaucracy and encourages work and entrepreneurship”.

“Every experiment so far has reported very positive results with improved economic performance, health, housing and other outcomes,” the Basic Income website says. “It also reflects the increasing interest in Basic Income worldwide with prominent European parties like Podemos in Spain and D66 in the Netherlands adopting it as a policy.”

Now, would this work in Singapore, where the government shuns a minimum wage and has in fact introduced more help schemes in recent years? Would it be feasible to do away with all these and substitute it with a Basic Income for all, regardless of who they are, as long as they are Singaporean?

This article was first published on Public Opinion.

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