In January 2017, Finland decided to run a two-year pilot program that gave 2,000 unemployed citizens the equivalent of nearly $700 a month. Many thought that it was a universal basic income test, but it never was.
A universal basic income is unconditional, meaning that it is given to everyone, not only unemployed people.
The reason that is making this experiment dangerous is because it only shows results on how unemployed people would do, not people with all employment status.
This is really important, because people would act differently depending on their employment status, whatever that can be.
In order to run an experiment that would give us results that are closer to a true universal basic income we should actually run it under the UBI’s true characteristics.
A basic income is a periodic cash payment unconditionally delivered to all on an individual basis, without means test or work requirement.
- Cash payment
It is important to not misunderstand universal basic income’s characteristics.
It is paid to all, without means test, it’s also paid without a requirement to work or to demonstrate willingness-to-work.
The UBI must be paid at regular intervals (for example every month), not as a one-off grant.
It must be paid in an appropriate medium of exchange, allowing those who receive it to decide what they spend it on. It is not, therefore, paid either in kind (such as food or services) or in vouchers dedicated to a specific use.
It must be also be paid on an individual basis—and not, for instance, to households.
It must be unconditional
A universal basic income has many characteristics that should stay as they are, in order to have a true UBI experiment in place. Unconditional means that it should be given to people with all possible different backgrounds.
In brief, in order to run a universal basic income experiment it should have all its characteristics. That’s the only way to get a result that is closer to what a real universal basic income would give.