May 2001

Citizen’s Income supported by top businessman

A leading Finnish businessman has come out as a supporter of citizens’ income. Björn Wahlroos, Director of Sampo, one of the country’s largest insurance and banking groups, says that in a society characterised by short-term job contracts, citizen’s income offers a solution not only to job insecurity but to poverty as well.

In an interview in the social democratic newspaper Uutispäivä Demari (30 April 2001), Wahlroos says that getting rid of short-term jobs is impossible.

“Giving up short-term contracts is a beautiful thought but I am afraid that the more difficult we make short-term work, for instance in health care, domestic work or repair and redecoration work, the more we eliminate jobs.”

“It is easy to say that we don’t want jobs like that. This is a choice. If we don’t want jobs like that, we will have unemployment.

Wahlroos sees a compromise solution and that is citizen’s income. The idea has occasionally been recommended by politicians but it has met a lot of opposition. It is often described as something which is foolishly campaigned for by greens and communists.

“In this matter I don’t mind at all being seen as a fellow traveller of the greens and communists”, Wahlroos says.

“I claim that most economists can be counted as members of this citizen’s income group.

“Citizen’s income is an important matter if we want to do something to increase employment and welfare, especially since we want to find a solution to poverty.

“Citizen’s income makes it possible to accept low-paid jobs and short-term jobs without losing all social benefits.”

Where does the money come for citizen’s income? Wahlroos says that one could begin with downsizing bureaucracy.

“As a matter of fact, if we reform our social security system, we hardly need any extra money to implement citizen’s income. However, we have to admit that part of the money comes from reducing the social security bureaucracy. Administratively citizen’s income is a cheap system.”

Wahlroos admits that creating a citizen’s income system is not without its problems. But he is ready to talk about figures.

“I find it difficult to see that anyone can live with under 5,000 – 6,000 marks after tax. This would in any case be the minimum income for everyone.”

In Wahlroos’s vision, one would not lose citizen’s income even if one simultaneously took up a short-term job.

“The income earned in addition to citizen’s income would naturally be taxed. Working must be worthwhile. I think this system would create a flexible way to offer employment to those who today suffer most from unemployment.”

Wahlroos says that although citizen’s income has not been implemented anywhere, some countries have been reforming their social security system in a way which approaches the model.

“Basic security, in my mind, must never be threatened because it is an important part of human modern society”, Wahlroos says.

In his May Day speech, Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen commented on Wahlroos's proposal. Lipponen predicted that the idea would arouse intense debate which he plans to keep track of.

"In the coming months the government will make important decisions on fighting poverty, the securing of basic municipal services, regional policy and the development of defence. None of these issues are a threat to government cooperation", Lipponen said.

See also:

From the archive:

Liberation from money with local exchange

9 April 2001

Brave new working life

27 March 2001

How to survive work

9 March 2001

Short term job contracts criticised

29 January 2001

Temporary jobs on the rise

18 January 2001

What makes people hate work?

5 December 2000

Farewell to full employment

20 September 2000

“Would inefficiency create more happiness?”

1 June 2000

Work: How about enjoying life?

12 March 2000

The decline of the 'employment society'

January 1999

Why a Citizen's Income should be combined with a Citizen's Wage

November 1998

Shorter working hours – solution for the future?

November 1998

The end of work or the end of wage slavery?

June 1998

Citizen's Income model

June 1998

Archbishop of Finland supports Citizen’s Income

June 1998

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