Giving jobless people in Finland a basic income for two years did not lead them to find work, researchers said.
From January 2017 until December 2018, 2,000 unemployed Finns got a monthly flat payment of €560 (£490; $634).
The aim was to see if a guaranteed safety net would help people find jobs, and support them if they had to take insecure gig economy work.
While employment levels did not improve, participants said they felt happier and less stressed.
When it launched the pilot scheme back in 2017, Finland became the first European country to test out the idea of an unconditional basic income. It was run by the Social Insurance Institution (Kela), a Finnish government agency, and involved 2,000 randomly-selected people on unemployment benefits.
It immediately attracted international interest – but these results have now raised questions about the effectiveness of such schemes.
Although it’s enjoying a resurgence in popularity, the idea isn’t new. In fact, it was first described in Sir Thomas More’s Utopia, published in 1516 – a full 503 years ago.
Such schemes are being trialled all over the world. Adults in a village in western Kenya are being given $22 a month for 12 years, until 2028, while the Italian government is working on introducing a “citizens’ income”. The city of Utrecht, in the Netherlands, is also carrying out a basic income study called Weten Wat Werkt – “Know What Works” – until October.
Did it help unemployed people in Finland find jobs, as the centre-right Finnish government had hoped? No, not really.
Mr Simanainen says that while some individuals found work, they were no more likely to do so than a control group of people who weren’t given the money. They are still trying to work out exactly why this is, for the final report that will be published in 2020.
But for many people, the original goal of getting people into work was flawed to begin with. If instead the aim were to make people generally happier, the scheme would have been considered a triumph.
Researchers from Kela are now busy analysing all of their results, to figure out what else – if anything – they can tell us about basic income’s uses and shortcomings.
Mr Simanainen says that he doesn’t like to think of the trial as having “failed”.
From his point of view, “this is not a failure or success – it is a fact, and [gives us] new information that we did not have before this experiment”.