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    Finland's government will test an unconditional basic income amid a growing debate on the subject in Europe. | Photo: AFP

Published 26 August 2016

Finland is moving forward with a plan to test the effects of paying a basic income. 

The Finnish government indicated on Thursday that it plans to try out a monthly basic payment of $600.

The government said it had chosen the figure for an unconditional basic income in line with a manifesto pledge by centrist Prime Minister Juha Sipila, who took office 15 months ago.

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Former businessman Sipila wants to see if the measure can boost employment and simplify the welfare benefits system, and plans to test the idea on a 2,000-strong sample of randomly selected working-age residents.

"The primary goal of the basic income experiment is related to promoting employment," said the health and social affairs ministry, adding that it also aimed to simplify the complicated benefits system in a sustainable way regarding public finances.

Amid a growing debate on the subject, Finland now wants to be the first European country to test the idea nationwide.

In June, voters in Switzerland decisively rejected a far more generous proposal to pay a monthly US$2,500 to each adult and 625 francs for each child.

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The idea has support on the political left and right with the former wanting a guaranteed safety net while some liberal voices feel that money for nothing can dissuade some jobless people from seeking work.

Countries such as the U.K., the Netherlands and Canada have toyed with the idea of basic income distribution and many see it as a viable alternative for unemployment benefits and other welfare payments.

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