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Mon, 14 Dec, 2015 01:11:53 AM
FTimes-Xinhua Report by Juhani Niinisto, Dec 14

Finnish authorities have been in the past week combating international media reports which claimed that the country would in the near future start to give every citizen 800 euros per month instead of current benefits.

     A press release issued by the Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Kela, last Tuesday said the international media reports about the topic were "misleading."

     "In fact, only a preliminary study about a basic income system has been launched," said Eeva Larjomaa, Communications Director of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. "If decided, a basic income experiment could be launched in 2017," Larjomaa added.  

     A probe into universal basic income is part of the program of the present coalition government. The impact of a basic income for certain groups of people would be estimated and the price tag assessed.

     Previous media reports claimed that the governmental plan had won strong support among Finnish citizens, indicating that it would be very likely that the government starts to implement the plan.

     In September and October, Kela conducted a survey in which nearly 70 percent of the respondents were favorably disposed to the idea of a universal basic income. Respondents had found 1,000 euros per month to be a suitable amount for a basic income.

     Local experts point out, however, the support levels should be treated only as preliminary findings before the details of the recommendation are unveiled. It means that attitudes "might change when the details will unfold."

     Larjomaa told Xinhua the international interest in the Finnish plans is understandable against the backdrop that very few countries have that approach so far. "But we are intensifying our international media surveillance now to avoid unnecessary spreading of wrong information," said Larjava.

     The current Finnish welfare system provides unemployment benefits and additional living cost subsidy on basis of verification of the beneficiaries' labor force status and income level. A universal basic income system could simplify or procedures needed to verify the actual need.

     Meanwhile, there are other income transfers in Finland such as heavily subsidized health care and free education, which are a separate matter and available to all residents in Finland irrespective of their income or social situation and require no verification. The proposed basic income system will probably not affect these benefits as media reports indicated.

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