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Does Any Country Give Its Citizens a Basic Universal Income?

Much has been discussed about universal health care, in which the government takes care of every resident’s medical needs. Global debates about welfare and benefits are constantly in the news. And in the midst of all this, Finland is embarking on a radical experiment in social welfare. As of January 2017, the country is giving 2,000 of its unemployed citizens a guaranteed income of 560 euros ($600 USD) a month, whether they find work or not. The participants, ranging in age from 35 to 58, were randomly selected, but had to be receiving unemployment benefits or an income subsidy. The two-year “universal income” experiment may even save the Finnish government money in the long run. Officials have pointed out that the current Finnish welfare system discourages jobless Finns from taking even part-time jobs, because they could lose their unemployment benefits by doing so.

Hoping universal income will pay off:

  • In 2016, Livorno, Italy, started providing a guaranteed basic income for the city's 100 poorest families. An additional 100 families were added in 2017. They receive 500 euros ($537 USD) a month.

  • Basic income experiments are scheduled to begin in several cities in the Netherlands in 2017. Similar programs are also being discussed in Canada, Iceland, Uganda, and Brazil.

  • In 2016, Switzerland rejected a proposal to give every adult citizen a guaranteed income of $2,500 USD a month. More than 75 percent of Swiss voters said no.

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