Finland is running an experiment to pay a basic income for two years to people who are currently unemployed. Providing a basic income has been suggested as a way to decrease poverty and to cut welfare bureaucracy. The Finnish government experiment involving 2000 people is intended to find out whether or not this works.

 

Finland has an unemployment rate of 8.1%, higher than its Nordic neighbours. It has been suggested that the Finnish welfare system does not encourage people to take low-income, temporary jobs. Any pay that people receive from such work usually decreases their welfare payments. The lengthy and complex system of reapplying for welfare benefits once a temporary contract has ended may actually leave people financially poorer in the long run, since their temporary earnings do not cover their loss of welfare benefits. The trial scheme provides people with a basic payment from the government regardless of any other income they earn, and without any need to qualify or to fill in forms. The Finnish government hope that this will make people more willing to take temporary work as a first step towards full time employment. People on the scheme have also spoken of using the security the basic income provides to gain extra skills or to start their own businesses.

 

At its broadest, a universal basic income is a regular income paid to all adults in a country regardless of any other income they may have. Alaska has been operating such a scheme since the 1970s, but in June 2016, Swiss voters voted overwhelmingly to reject a proposal to pay a basic income to all adults. Limited trials of basic income schemes are to take part in four Dutch cities, in two Scottish councils and in the Canadian province of Ontario. Supporters speak of cutting down on bureaucracy, of affirming the basic worth of every citizen, of the ethics of ensuring that no one is left in absolute poverty, and of providing support for people to become entrepreneurs or to improve their skills or qualifications. Critics speak of the injustice or foolishness of providing ‘money for nothing’ and claim that some people will simply not bother to work at all.

 

The Bible teaches about relationships, and teaches principles for society to thrive, but it does not provide answers to specific situations. Christians will differ on whether or not they believe a universal basic income to be desirable. But a fundamental teaching of Christianity is that all people should be valued equally, whatever their ability to contribute, and that each person has a responsibility to contribute in all the ways that they can to the well-being of everyone in community.

 

  • Are you in favour of universal basic income schemes, or not? Why?

  • What assumptions about other people are being made by the supporters and the critics of universal basic income schemes?

 

Prayer for the week - 19th January 2017

 

Just before Christmas, a study reported in the Scientific journal Nature showed that at a molecular level there are major differences between genetically modified corn and its non-genetically modified parent. The changes have been linked to the production of toxins, cell damage and carcinogenic substances.

 

An independent UK think tank, the High Pay Centre, has branded yesterday ‘Fat Cat Wednesday’, saying that by midday yesterday, top bosses would have earned more in 2017 than a worker on the average UK salary will earn in the whole of the year.

 

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