Citizens don't warm to basic income

The majority of Finns remain cool about the idea of a Citizen's Income paid to all without questions. A poll revealed that only 32 per cent of citizens support the idea whilst 43 per cent are against. Those without an opinion were 26 per cent. Citizen's Income has been suggested by two high-profile Finns, the Minister of Public Services, Osmo Soininvaara — recently elected as the leader of the Green Party — and Björn Wahlroos, a leading businessman.

Suomen Kuvalehti — the newsweekly which reported the findings of the poll (18 May 2001) — said that somewhat surprisingly, men are more favourable to Citizen's Income than women. 30 per cent of women were not able to decide what to think about the idea. Another interesting finding was that Citizen's Income is more popular among people over 35 years. People with low incomes are also more favourable. On the other hand, professional status did not seem to correlate with attitude to Citizen's Income.

Unsurprisingly, voters who are on the left or prefer the Green Party are clearly more favourable than people who vote for the conservatives or the Centre Party. Half of Left Alliance support Citizen's Income. This is even more than Green Party voters, 37 per cent of whom like the idea. Among social democrats support is 36 per cent. Equivalent figures for conservative voters are 24% and for Centre Party supporters 29%. 65 per cent of conservative voters oppose the idea.

In a comment on the current debate, Tuija Brax MP — ex-leader of the Green Party — expressed surprise at how the idea of Citizen's Income has been changing. In a column in the green newspaper Vihreä lanka (18 May 2001), Brax says that originally she liked the idea that people in need wouldn't have to run around from one window to the next in a humiliating process of seeking advice. She also liked the idea that social workers would be freed to do proper field work. Especially positive, in her view, was the possibility of finding alternative ways of living, she writes.

"The current discussion on Citizen's Income has left me confused: the original idea has changed. Orginally Osmo Soininvaara even thought it is possible that Citizen's Income will raise wages of boring jobs with low esteem because no one would be forced to accept them.

"Now we are talking the opposite. The case for Citizen's Income is argued by saying that it makes an unemployed person accept all sorts of meaningless and temporary jobs.

"Earlier, it was said that a wealthy country can afford Citizen's Income in the same way it can afford social security. Now it is being said that the character of work has changed and Citizen's Income is a way to make a badly selling labour force accept second-class jobs. The reform would be financed by increased tax revenue."

Brax admit that the idea of a basic income needs honing. She believes that the idea becomes even better once people are brave enough to take into discussion dissident views of the labour market.

"It is possible that the current propositions by the Greens are based on too unrefined a view about change of the nature of work a view that says that work has become polarised between high-skilled studio work and low-earning second-class jobs."

Brax thinks there is much in between the two extremes. She mentions work carried out by women in education, health and social care and related fields of work.

See also:

From the archive:

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

November 1998

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