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Finland's 'basic income' program means free cash for the unemployed, no strings attached

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On Monday, Finland became the first European country to experiment with giving unemployed citizens a basic income. In short, they get cash for free.  

The two-year experiment will give 2,000 randomly selected unemployed people 560 euros a month, or about $587. The average wage in Finland is about 3,500 euros ($3,625) per month. 

Proponents say the cash will help the unemployed find different jobs or be more entrepreneurial, but critics say it will make them dependent on the cash.  

Will this lead them to boldly experiment with different kinds of jobs? Or, as some critics claim, make them lazier with the knowledge of getting a basic income without doing anything?
Olli Kangas, Finnish government

Olli Kangas, a member of the Finnish agency that manages social security benefits, said the plan is to get rid of the "disincentive problem" unemployment benefits create. There are no requirements to report how the money is spent.

Juha Sipila.jpg
Finland Prime Minister Juha Sipila arrives for an ALDE political group pre EU summit meeting in Brussels on Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016. British Prime Minister Theresa May is set to hold her first talks with EU leaders and will tell them that the U.K.'s decision to leave the bloc is irreversible. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

Finland has 5.5 million people, and its unemployment rate held at 8.1% in November. Kangas said the basic income program could be expanded to include part-time workers as well. Prime Minister Juha Sipila (pictured) backed the basic income program.

What's basic income about anyway?

The concept of basic income has been growing in popularity. Basic Income Earth Network argues the concept promotes liberty, equality, workers' rights, environmental conservation and full employment. 

Other proponents, such as the writers of Futurism, believe that automation will eliminate all jobs eventually, so people should be given money to pursue passions, new business ideas and leisure time instead.

Should the US try basic income programs?

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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