World

America Should Consider Universal Basic Income Program

| by Shani Shahmoon

Welfare programs are constantly misunderstood as the lazy way out, but financial needs and circumstances are far more complex than many are willing to recognize.

Universal basic income is one solution to these complexities.

In January, Finland's social security institution, Kela, launched a pilot program to test out basic income, Kera News reported. Every month, around 2,000 unemployed individuals between the ages of 25 and 58 receive a monthly stipend of $600, unconditionally, for two years. Unlike the current welfare system in America, there is no control over what Kela recipients use this stipend on, and it aims to reduce bureaucracy and improve mental health.

Marjukka Turunen is director of change management at Kela and is leading this program.

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She explained that even in Finland, people who were on welfare didn't seek it out to perpetuate their laziness. For many, staying on it is their only option.

"There was this one woman who said, 'I was afraid every time the phone would ring, that unemployment services are calling to offer me a job,'" Turunen said.

"She said that she cannot take on a job because she’s taking care of her elderly parents at home," she added.

Once someone is offered and takes on a job, their status changes and as such, they would be taken off of the general welfare program.

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Universal basic income recognizes that this method has not worked for decades and will continue on with its flaws.

People lose their jobs, their jobs may not provide enough money to financially support them or, in the situation mentioned above, sometimes a job holds more cost than it does benefits.

As a result of such concerns being discounted, people are often in and out of welfare programs, creating the illusion of dependence and laziness.

But this basic income program is aiming to reform the welfare method.

In addition to creating a sense of stability for Finns who were part of the program, they have also reported lower levels of stress, knowing that this basic income program covered their bare minimum needs.

Kela's universal basic income pilot was put in place by its center-right government after their unemployment figures remained unmoved at 8 percent for over a year, The Independent reported.

With Ontario, Canada, being next on the list of countries to test out a similar program, America's tech leaders are also advocating for this remedy, the Financial Times reported.

As technologists in Silicon Valley work to replace human labor with artificial intelligence, sources of income will start to diminish. Economists and technologists in America must work together and review these pilot programs as possible options for solutions to future unemployment rates.

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Sources: Financial Times, The Guardian, The Independent, Kera News / Photo credit: Pexels

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