HELSINKI: The Utopian ideal of a universal wage is to become a reality in Finland in an effort to reduce unemployment.
All benefits are to bescrapped and replaced with a payment, likely to be €800 ($1185) a month, to workers and non-workers alike.
Universal pay has been a dream of thinkers through the ages — it featured in Thomas More's Utopia, published in 1516 — but has never been used by a modern national economy.
Seven out of 10 Finns backed the plan in an opinion poll, despite fears it could plunge the country further into debt, leave some worse off and fail to cut unemployment, which is nearly 10 per cent.
Ministers believe too many jobless Finns are put off going to work by fear of losing benefits, and argue the scheme will save the country money by streamlining benefits.
"For me, a basic income means simplifying the social security system," said Prime Minister Juha Sipila, a former businessman.
The key will be setting the payment at the right level. At €800 for nearly five million adults in Finland, that will cost the treasury close to €48 billion a year; the total revenue forecast by the government in 2016 was €49.1bn. Critics say such a scheme would leave almost no money for government services.
Opponents also warn it will disadvantage some of those dependent upon help from the state, such as a single mother with several children, to the benefit of millionaires.
The Finnish government will run regional trials before unveiling its final plan next year.
— THE TIMES