Finland is taking a new approach to lift its economy as it faces record-high unemployment. The nation is moving closer toward offering its citizens a tax-free payout of 800 euros, equivalent to $868 USD per month, in place of current social welfare payments, child benefits, and state pensions.
The proposal that’s being designed by the Finnish Social Insurance Institution would benefit all citizens, regardless of whether or not they receive any other income. A final proposal will not be presented until November 2016, Quartz reports. If it’s approved, Finland would become the first to implement universal basic income. Giving every Finn 800 euros per month comes with a pretty hefty price tag. Based on the country’s population of 5.5 million, it will cost a total of 52.8 billion euros a year.
So far, the plan seems to be gaining support. A survey commissioned by KELA shows that 69 percent of the Finnish population is in favor.
Finland’s current unemployment rate is 8.7 percent, and the basic income proposal is aimed to encourage more people to get back to work. But critics of the plan warn the opposite will ring true, arguing a monthly payment will eliminate incentive to work and lead to even higher unemployment.
Finland’s economy has struggled to find ways to dig itself out of recession since 2012. Prime Minister Juha Sipilä told the BBC, “For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system.”
Finland is not the only country that is debating basic income programs. Switzerland will hold a referendum on a proposal to pay each citizen about 2,500 Swiss francs a month next year, while the Netherlands plans to begin universal income pilot projects in several cities next year.