Citizens in Finland who receive a basic monthly income – part of a radical Finnish pilot programme – have experienced a reduction in their stress levels.
Under the scheme, which is the first of its kind in Europe, 2,000 people receive €560 every month for two years. According to government data, the average private sector income in Finland is €3,500.
Recipients do not have to report whether they are seeking employment or how they are spending the money, which is deducted from any benefits they are already receiving.
As reported by The Independent, Marjukka Turunen, head of KELA, the legal unit at Finland’s social insurance agency, said as well as cutting bureaucracy, reducing costs and tackling poverty, the scheme was having an indirectly positive effect on people’s mental health.
“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 told US-based broadcaster Kera News.
The woman was not able to work because she was caring for elderly parents.
She added: “This experiment really has an indirect impact, also, on the stress levels [of people] and the mental health and so on.”
Under the pilot, if a participant finds work, they will continue to receive the stipend, easing claimants’ fears they will lose out by finding employment.
The problem of refusing work because people feel better off on benefits is particularly acute under Finland’s generous and complex social security system.
The trial is part of measures introduced by the centre-right government to tackle Finland’s unemployment problem. More than 8% of Finns are out of work.