Program Day 2

Friday, September 23, 2016


Basic Income and the Nordic Model

The second day of the conference will consist of presentations from a number of politicians, researchers and activists followed by panel discussions.

The main focus of this part of the conference is to stimulate the cooperation between the active members of the national and local basic income groups in the Nordic countries. It has been a longstanding wish from many activists in Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and the Faroe Islands to form closer ties between our countries because there is so much common ground, not least in the idea of the modern universal welfare state.

This day will be dedicated to a closer look at how an unconditional basic income (UBI) may be the next step in a natural development of the Nordic Model.


9:00 – 9:10 Dorte Kolding Welcome Speech
9:10 – 9:30  Nanna Kildal  The Nordic Welfare Model and Basic Income

In the Nordic welfare states, universal solutions to the citizens’ needs have been a characteristic, parallel with a strong work orientation. The universalistic feature of the social security system is closely related to an unconditional ‘basic income’ paid to all. However, it is the work orientation that has been the answer to the challenges the Nordic welfare state has faced in recent years (unemployment, precarious work, marginalization, immigration), not the universal basic income. This policy path is a threat to the Nordic welfare model, and contrasts with some of the key motives for a universal social policy – economic efficiency and human dignity.

9:30 – 9:50  Thomas Boje  Basic Income as a Condition for Equal Democratic Participation?

In the Nordic welfare model, universal access to social security has been the core of social welfare. This principle has, however, been abandoned. Today, the criterion of social rights is replaced with the criterion of duties with introduction of the principles of investment, capability or competition.

At the same time, a growing diversity in lifestyle and social demands / needs has meant that the universal rights have lost their relevance and importance for large groups of citizens.

Both these dilemmas lead to inequality for citizens in their opportunities for inclusion in society and their possibilities for democratic participation. Basic income would be a significant step towards equality, emancipation and social, economic and political justice.

9:50 – 10:10 Torsten Gejl The Alternative’s Policy of Sustainability and the Nordic Model

The Alternative is the first political party elected to parliament that is specifically advocating a basic income without means test and work requirement for people who are already receiving benefits. How does this new policy relate to the Nordic Model and in what way may the Alternative’s vision of sustainable development in all areas of society contribute to its development?

10:10 – 10:30 Debate
10:30 – 11:00 Coffee Break
11:00- 11:20 Annika Lillemets Unconditional Basic Income in a Nation Obsessed With Labour – How Do We Break the Taboo and Find Ways Forward?

Times are changing, unlike the mindset of the Swedish political elite. Its desperate clinging to organizations and ideas of the past and its obsession with labour at any cost effectively blocks urgently needed debate and reforms. Whereas open-minded political leaders in nations like Finland, the Netherlands and Canada dare to try various versions of unconditional basic income, the concept is taboo within Sweden’s ruling elite. Meanwhile, interest in UBI is surging in the Swedish society, not least within the ever larger groups of people who are suffering from ever worse conditions in the labour market and excluded from the Swedish social security systems that were designed for a past era.There is an urgent need to find viable alternative ways forward. How can the taboo be broken and by whom? What solutions and what arguments might appeal to people and the elite in a society like Sweden with its deeply rooted culture of work ethics and worship of labour? Can some kind of unconditional basic income become part of an updated Nordic Model?

11:20 – 11:40 Finn Sørensen The Danish Red-Green Alliance on Basic Income
The political party the Danish Red-Green Alliance (Enhedslisten) does not support a universal basic income as it would represent a “gift” of huge proportions to the employers.As to the welfare benefits, the main objective now is to fight against the cuts introduced by the majority of the parliament, not just cash benefits, but also unemployment benefits, flexible jobs (flexicurity) and sickness benefits. The Danish Red-Green Alliance will not support replacing those benefits with a kind of benefit at the level of cash benefits, even though this may come without means test or work requirement, because it would require that people take out private insurances in addition to this.

The Danish Red-Green Alliance is, however, open to experiments with basic income.

11:40 – 12:00 Debate
12:00 – 13:00 Lunch
13:00 – 13:20 Louise Haagh Basic Income Debate and the Nordic Model

This paper considers reasons for the perceived tension between basic income and the Nordic Model and ways the relation can be recast in a more positive way. The paper will argue that whilst BI as instrument of alternative lifestyles or/and alleviation of poverty has widespread appeal, there is also a case in terms of common interests in development transformation and human development. Altering the terms of the case makes a BI seem politically a more common sense and less radical step.

13:20 – 13:40 Christian Engström A Basic Income Model for Sweden

This talk introduces a concrete proposal for a basic income system for Sweden, including a cost estimate and financing. The basic income would be 8.333 SEK (900 EUR) per month for anybody between 19 and 65 who lives in Sweden and has no other income. For those entering the workforce the basic income would be reduced, but never with 100%, so there is always an incentive to work if you can. The cost of this system would be covered in full by letting the basic income replace the current systems for social welfare, student- aid and unemployment benefits, and by removing the VAT discounts that certain industries enjoy. To make the proposal politically realistic there would be no raise in income taxes and no reduction of current health benefits.

13:40 – 14:00 Martin Jordö A Feminist and Intersectional Take on Basic Income – What Is Feministiskt Initiativ in Sweden Proposing?

In 2015, the Swedish feminist party Feministiskt Initiativ (3,1% in last elections) decided to evaluate Basic Income for possible inclusion in the platform for the 2018 election. The evaluations were done from a Swedish perspective and with focus on women’s rights, anti-racism and rights for disabled. Is basic income a boon for women and underprivileged groups, or does it risk cementing a social exclusion and low-income groups?

14:00 – 14:20 Debate
14:20 – 14:40 Coffee Break
14:40 – 16.30 The Nordic Groups Presentations by leading members of the Nordic movements followed by panel and plenum discussion

Jouko Hemmi, Finland (introduction)

Albert Sigurdsson, Iceland

Øyvind Steensen, Norway

Martin Jordö, Sweden

Simo Ruottinen, Finland

Dorte Kolding, Denmark

Panel discussion topics suggested by Jouko Hemmi, BIEN Finland


  • What would be the impact (challenges, opportunities) of UBI on the Nordic labour market – particularly from the perspective of small and micro businesses as well as self-employed people, considering that they all play a tremendously important role in the cooperation between the Nordic countries. Is it a theme to be handled in the field of socio-economic research?

There is a quickly widening gap between rich and poor (even between employed and unemployed) – a very dangerous development which is accelerating faster than anticipated. The longer we wait to reverse this fatal development, the worse the consequences will be.

  • There is a great need to change our attitude towards work in order to meet the needs and demands of the modern labour market. How can the Nordic community of paradigmatic (!) innovators and pioneers implement UBI to contribute to this process?


Two quotes from Jouko’s speech at the Athens UBI Conference, September 2014:


The Finnish philosopher Georg Henrik von Wright testifies to the fact that UBI really is feasible! He said aptly: ‘Reduction of unemployment and concurrent growth of economy are incompatible motives.’ Wright argues that the ‘economy sprouts from the society’s entirety and is subject to the entire sphere of life: unemployment is, therefore, not an economic problem but a social one’.”


Götz Werner, one of the richest entrepreneurs in Germany: ‘We still combine work with income: income is glued to work rather than to people. When work is rationalized away, it’s the best thing that can happen. The problem is that we think that work would be paid. This is a mistake. What needs to be paid, is that you are for example able to conduct this interview. The interview itself is unpayable. Or how do you want to measure the value of the interview? Or the value of the work of a teacher or a judge? So income is not the payment for work, but the facilitation of work. This is a Copernican revolution in our thinking. This shift in consciousness is a major challenge’” (in interview by Wiener Zeitung 29 September 2013)


UBI poses a revolutionary paradigm shift in the history of mankind. Referring to UBI, Rutger Bregman (in Business Insider, 9 June 2016) says that without big ideas the world would be without all of our most fundamental beliefs: “I always like to point out that almost every milestone of civilisation that we have now, like democracy, or the end of slavery, or equal rights for men and women, or even the beginning of the welfare state. These were all regarded as utopian fantasies once. It has to start somewhere.


  • How could we adjust UBI to the Nordic community? Could it happen by harmonizing our legal systems, through common UBI pilot projects and/or participating in those carried out by other countries, cities etc. What else?
  • How could we further develop our understanding of a universal UBI model in favor of the Nordic community? (Like by teaching in schools, universities, by arranging courses of lectures etc.)


How can our Nordic pedagogical skills be utilized in the education of the principles of UBI and in the planting of its concept in the minds of an adaptable Nordic population? A notable education project called HundrED started in Finland this spring. To its main goals belong new openings in education like teaching and learning of emotional and consciousness skills. It would be worthwhile considering how we could incorporate this or/and other such projects or organisations in order to be acknowledged by those whose mission it is to guide and bring up our youth towards a better future and a sustainable world for mankind.


  • UBI’s impact on fine arts. What kind of strengths, potential weaknesses etc. would emerge through UBI if also small and micro entrepreneurs receive UBI every month?
  • Social cohesion and justice (current public social services constitute very expensive, immense bureaucracy and heavy control machinery equivalent to each Nordic country.
  • UBI as a tool for strengthening the Nordic peoples’ societal participation, for instance through deliberative, i.e. participatory and interactive democracy.
  • Contributions to education and pedagogy, e.g. new methods of teaching like those of emotion and consciousness skills.
  • Would UBI tighten or weaken economic cooperation between the Nordic countries?
  • Would the Nordic Welfare community succeed in better contributing to international peace work with the help of UBI?  For instance by enhancing cooperation within the Nordic society between NGO’s (citizens organizations), state and municipal organizations.


Proposal for a workshop theme from Halldóra Mogensen, Iceland

Regarding themes for the workshop, my favorite thing about UBI is the ways in which it could influence human behavior. Moving away from a culture of violence, where we attempt to control with rules and regulations and threats if said rules are broken. Our societies are ruled by violence. If we are able to influence people’s behavior by creating a system that moves us out of scarcity and into abundance, setting competition and survival to the side, nurturing love over fear…perhaps the rules will become superfluous. Control and violence becomes unnecessary. What will our world look like then?


Also to be discussed

The organizational structure within the Nordic movements, national as well as local groups. Funding and subscriptions practises.

Communication and interactions between the BI movements and academic institutions.

Communication with politicians, political parties and labour unions.