A group of 2,000 unemployed people in Finland have just received their first payment from the state as part of a trial basic income scheme. For the next two years they will receive a guaranteed 560 euros a month ($597) tax-free, regardless of whether they find work or not. Ivor Bennett reports.
There aren't many places in the world where you get free money. But Finland often likes to do things differently. It's giving 2,000 unemployed people a guaranteed income for two years even if they find a job. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARJUKKA TURUNEN, HEAD OF LEGAL UNIT FOR BENEFITS AT KELA, SAYING: "They get 560 euros every month, every second bank day so it comes as a train every month at the same time." Finland is hoping the experiment will encourage the unemployed to take low-paid or temporary jobs. And tackle the "welfare trap" where unemployed people find they're better off on benefits than in work. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARJUKKA TURUNEN, HEAD OF LEGAL UNIT FOR BENEFITS AT KELA, SAYING: "They can also stay at their home on their couches and do nothing if they settled for this basic income so it's up to them. They don't have to announce (to) us that they are taking on a job or building up a business or something like that, it's their own business." Finland's economy has been hit by the demise of Nokia and recession in neighbouring Russia. Unemployment is 9 percent and rising. Removing some of the costly bureaucracy may help. But not everyone is convinced. (SOUNDBITE) (Finnish) UNEMPLOYED WOMAN FROM VANTAA, ASTA KOKKARINEN, SAYING: "It's totally unfair, I will start a petition to get the support stopped when you get a full time job." Last year Swiss voters rejected the idea of an unconditional minimum wage. But authorities in the Netherlands, France, Canada and California are looking at similar schemes. And ultimately others may have to as well if robots and artificial intelligence start replacing the human workforce.