Is Basic Income Good for your Health?

Basic income might have some serious public health benefits. Finnish citizens participating in that nation’s universal basic-income (UBI) experiment reported feeling less stressed and more relaxed.

Some participants; including an unemployed man named Juha Jarvinen, told The Economist that they were feeling less stress, The Independent reported. Jarvinen said the €560 (£473 or $658.12) a month UBI payment gave him the freedom to take part time jobs and start a business.

Jarvinen had turned down a number of part time jobs because he was afraid of losing the welfare benefits his children depend on. The young father is also relieved not be going through what he calls the “silly show” of filling out forms and talking to social services bureaucrats.

Mental health benefits were also reported by Marjukka Turunen; the chief lawyer at Finland’s social security agency KELA, The Independent reported. Tururnen told KELA News that a young woman had told her she was less stressed and no longer afraid of a call from unemployment services.

Basic Income may Improve Physical Health Too

Tests in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh found that villagers who received UBI experienced better nutrition and a decrease in serious health problems.

Researchers also reported higher rates of school attendance and more job opportunities for women in villages where UBI was tested, The Independent reported.

Social Service Bureaucrats stressed out by Basic Income

There is one group that is stressed out by basic income in Finland: social services bureaucrats. Many of them are afraid it to put an end to their cushy jobs.

Ilkka Kaukoranta, chief economist of the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions said basic income “we think it takes social policy in the wrong direction” in a Bloomberg interview. Translation: “we’re afraid we’ll lose our jobs. We’d rather have the poor stressed out and drunk in public housing than see one social worker laid off.”

Basic Income in India

One group of people who have noticed the success of Finland’s basic income experiment is Indian politicians. More than 80 leaders discussed UBI at India’s Institute for Human Development in New Delhi in late July, The Independent reported.

UBI is being considered in India because of the grinding poverty that has plagued the world’s most populous democracy for centuries. Around 29.5% of Indians live in poverty. Tests of UBI have been carried out at villages in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Predictably the UBI critics were out in force; noting that some poor people had used their payments to buy alcohol. A critic called Professor Dreze claimed basic income was a “Trojan horse” designed to rationalize cuts in spending on “essential social and economic services.” Translation it threatens bureaucrats’ jobs.

Another reason for opposition is that basic income would increase taxes on the rich; and end government subsidies for the middle class, Professor Braneb Bardhan, of the University of California at Berkley, pointed out. Bardhan believes that India could easily afford a basic income of $15.50 (€13.50 or 1,017.84 rupees) a month for most citizens.

It looks as if basic income might have health benefits but its critics may not care about the health of the poor. Instead all they care about is the health of their bank accounts and their ability to draw a good salary for a cushy social services job.