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NYAY scheme in Finland boosting morale, not jobs

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NYAY scheme in Finland boosting morale, not jobs

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's supporters welcomed it as a game-changer and opponents dismissed it as a bluff. Aside from the political one-upmanship over Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's NYAY pledge, India Today examined the impact of similar schemes elsewhere in the world.

Finland is one such country which experimented with a basic-income program for the jobless.

The northern European nation gave away 560 euros, or around Rs 44,000, a month to 2,000 unemployed people from January 2017 until December 2018.

The recipients were under no compulsion to seek jobs. In the Finnish capital of Helsinki, India Today spoke with the participants of the trial as well as the decision-makers to find out the overall effects of unconditional income.

Tuomas Muraja, a 45-year unemployed journalist, acknowledged that the scheme boosted his morale but did not lead to financial betterment.

"My experience is that financially this trial didn't mean anything, actually," he told India Today. "For me, the psychological effects were strong. So I have become a pro-basic-income person. Basic income makes you feel free. And when you feel free you feel less stressed. That means it makes you creative and that makes you productive even if we don't calculate everything with money."

Muraja wasn't the only beneficiary speaking about the psychological import of state support to the unemployed. Mira Jaskari, 36, also recounted how basic income reduced her stress levels from joblessness.

"The basic income trial was definitely less stressful," she remarked. But the project didn't help her much in her work situation.

"The basic income did not directly affect my employment and there are other reasons why I am unemployed," she said. "It is more about feeling more secure. Life would be better in other ways as well."

Finland's government admits its NYAYtype pilot provided little incentive to the recipients to join the workforce. Markus Kanerva, a senior specialist at the Finland Prime Minister's Office in Helsinki shared the findings with India Today. "Now it seems that the people who were receiving basic income didn't employ themselves any better than the people who were receiving the normal unemployment benefits," he said.

"It also seems that having the knowledge that you are able to collect basic income on a certain day every month without any requirements alleviates people's stress. That at least is a positive thing."

In his election promise, Rahul pledged Rs 72,000 yearly for the poverty-stricken 20 per cent of India's households if his party is voted to power at the centre.