A routine trip to check the mail took an unexpected turn for Mika Ruusunen in November 2016.
"I opened it and I didn't understand it at all, so I gave it to my wife and asked her what the heck is this," Ruusunen said.
It was the Finnish government informing Ruusunen that he would start receiving free money each month as part of a first-of-its-kind experiment.
Ruusunen was among 2,000 unemployed Finns randomly selected from across the country for a trial testing universal basic income. Each month for two years he would receive 560 euros (roughly $670) from the government, tax-free. He was free to spend the money however he liked.
"I'm not accustomed to that kind of bureaucratic freedom," Ruusunen said.
Reducing bureaucracy in the welfare system is one of the main aims of the universal basic income trial in Finland. The government is testing whether basic income is a more flexible policy than existing welfare programs for providing assistance and work incentives to an evolving workforce.
"It is assumed that this would be a policy that could activate people through different mechanisms and, well, we want to find out if that's the case," said Miska Simanainen, a researcher at Kela, the government organization overseeing the trial.
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