Skip to main content Accessibility help

From Rights to Activation: The Evolution of the Idea of Basic Income in the Finnish Political Debate, 1980–2016



The article contributes to the growing body of research on the politics of basic income by analysing the framing of the idea in the context of Finland, a country with a long history of debate and one of the forerunners in experimenting with this policy. Using a comprehensive dataset of political documents covering 36 years, the study shows how contextual factors and shifts in political climate shaped the framing of the idea. It also shows that the key frames describing basic income were widely shared among the politicians and parties discussing the policy. The study enriches our understanding of the politics of basic income by adding an ideational perspective that has for long been a missing element in this field of research.



Hide All
Andersson, J.O. (2000), The history of an idea. Why did basic income thrill the Finns, but not the Swedes? In: van der Veen, R. and Groot, L. (Eds.), Basic income on the agenda: policy objectives and political chances (pp. 224237), Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam.
Béland, D. (2005), ‘Ideas and social policy: an institutionalist perspective’, Social Policy & Administration, 39, 1, 118.
Béland, D. (2009), ‘Ideas, institutions, and policy change’, Journal of European Public Policy, 16, 5, 701718.
Béland, D. and Cox, R.H. (Eds.) (2010), Ideas and politics in social science research. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Béland, D. and Mahon, R. (2016), Advanced introduction to social policy. Cheltenham, UK and Northampton, MA, USA: Edward Elgar.
Campbell, J. (1998), ‘Institutional analysis and the role of ideas in political economy’, Theory and Society, 27, 3, 377409.
Chrisp, J. (2017), ‘Basic income: beyond left and right?’, Juncture, 234, 266270.
Christensen, E. (2008), The heretical political discourse - a discourse analysis of the danish debate on basic income. Aalborg: Aalborg University Press.
De Wispelaere, J. (2015), An income of one’s own? The political analysis of universal basic income. Tampere: Tampere University Press.
De Wispelaere, J. (2016a), ‘Basic income in our time: improving political prospects through policy learning?’, Journal of Social Policy, 45, 4, 617634.
De Wispelaere, J. (2016b), ‘The struggle for strategy: on the politics of the basic income proposal’, Politics, 36, 2, 131141.
De Wispelaere, J. and Noguera, J. (2012), On the political feasibility of a universal basic income. In: Caputo, R. (Ed.), Basic income guarantee and politics: international experiences and perspectives on the viability of income guarantee (pp. 1738), Palgrave MacMillan, New York.
De Wispelaere, J. and Stirton, L. (2012), ‘A disarmingly simple idea? Practical bottlenecks in the implementation of a universal basic income’, International Social Security Review, 65, 2, 103121.
Entman, R.M. (1993), ‘Framing: toward clarification of a fractured paradigm’, Journal of Communication, 43, 4, 5158.
Esping-Andersen, G. (1990), The three worlds of welfare capitalism. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Gamson, W.A., Croteau, D., Hoynes, W. and Sasson, T. (1992), ‘Media images and the social construction of reality’, Annual Review of Sociology, 18, 373393.
Hiilamo, H. and Kangas, O. (2009), ‘Trap for women or freedom to choose? The struggle over cash for child care schemes in Finland and Sweden’, Journal of Social Policy, 38, 3, 457475.
Ikkala, M. (2012), Finland: institutional resistance of the welfare state against a basic income. In: Caputo, R.K. (Ed.), Basic income guarantee and politics: international experiences and perspectives on the viability of income guarantee (pp. 6381), Palgrave MacMillan, New York.
Jordan, B. (2012), ‘The low road to basic income? Tax-benefit integration in the UK’, Journal of Social Policy, 41, 1, 117.
Kananen, J. (2012), ‘Nordic paths from welfare to workfare: Danish, Swedish and Finnish labour market reforms in comparison’, Local Economy, 27, 5–6, 558576.
Kangas, O., Niemelä, M. and Varjonen, S. (2013), Narratives and numbers. Politics in the making of sickness insurance in Finland. In: Haggren, H., Rainio-Niemi, J. and Vauhkonen, J. (Eds.), Multi-layered historicity of the present. Approaches to social science history (pp. 271296), University of Helsinki, Helsinki.
Kangas, O. and Saloniemi, A. (2013), Historical making, present and future challenges for the Nordic welfare state model in Finland (NordMod2030. Sub-report 6). Oslo: Fafo. [accessed 4.11.2017]
Kantola, A. and Kananen, J. (2013), ‘Seize the moment: financial crisis and the making of the finnish competition state’, New Political Economy, 18, 6, 811826.
Kingdon, J.W. (2010), Agendas, alternatives, and public policies, update edition, with an epilogue on health care (2nd edition). Boston: Pearson.
Koistinen, P. and Perkiö, J. (2015), ‘Good and bad times of social innovations: the case of universal basic income in Finland’, Basic Income Studies, 9, 1–2, 2557.
Kuivalainen, S. and Niemelä, M. (2010), ‘From universalism to selectivism: the ideational turn of the anti-poverty policies in Finland’, Journal of European Social Policy, 20, 3, 263276.
Martinelli, L. (2017), IPR policy brief: assessing the case for a universal basic income in the UK. Institute for Policy Research, University of Bath, Bath. [accessed 3.2.2018]
Niemelä, M. and Saarinen, A. (2012), ‘The role of ideas and institutional change in Finnish public sector reform’, Policy & Politics, 40, 2, 171191.
Saarinen, A., Salmenniemi, S. and Keränen, H. (2014), ‘Hyvinvointivaltiosta hyvinvoivaan valtioon. Hyvinvointi ja kansalaisuus suomalaisessa poliittisessa diskurssissa’, Yhteiskuntapolitiikka, 79, 6, 605618.
Sloman, P. (2018), ‘Universal basic income in British politics, 1918-2018: from a ‘vagabond’s wage’ to a global debate’, Journal of Social Policy, 47, 3, 625642.
Standing, G. (2017), Basic income: and how we can make it happen. London: Penguin.
Steensland, B. (2008a), The failed welfare revolution: America’s struggle over guaranteed income policy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Steensland, B. (2008b), ‘Why do policy frames change? Actor-idea coevolution in debates over welfare reform’, Social Forces, 86, 3, 10271054.
Stirton, L., De Wispelaere, J., Perkiö, J. and Chrisp, J. (2017), ‘Modelling political parties’ support for basic income in Finland, 1979-2016’, paper presented at 17th BIEN Congress, Lisbon, 25-27 September 2017.
Vanderborght, Y. (2006), ‘Why trade unions oppose basic income’, Basic Income Studies, 1, 1, 120.
Van Parijs, P. and Vanderborght, Y. (2017), Basic income. A radical proposal for free society and a sane economy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed