Finland is trialling a basic universal wage, that is paid regardless of circumstances
In its purest form, the basic income idea aims to prepare society for a future when robots and artificial intelligence may replace huge numbers of humans in the workforce. This will allow unwanted workers to lead comfortable and dignified lives while machines create much of the wealth to pay them, supporters argue.
The Finnish scheme has different, less lofty ambitions; while offering a safety net for those who cannot or choose not to work, it seeks to encourage the unemployed to take often low-paid or temporary jobs without fear of losing their benefits.
Swiss voters rejected the concept of an unconditional minimum income for all last year, but authorities in the Netherlands, France, Canada and the U.S. state of California are among those looking at the possibility, though mostly at a local government level.
I can focus on developing my business without stressing about food
Juha Jarvinen, entrepeneur and father of six
Finland has gone further by launching a two-year nationwide pilot scheme.Last week, 2,000 randomly-chosen unemployed Finns got their first monthly payment of £485 (€560 euros) under the trial in the Nordic country which is struggling to recover from a decade of economic stagnation.
"The participants get this money, no matter what," said Marjukka Turunen at the Social Insurance Institution of Finland (KELA), which runs the programme.
"They can stay at home on their couches and do nothing if they settle for this basic income."
The nationwide pilot will pay 2,000 unemployed Finns £485 a month for two years
But Turunen, who heads KELA's legal unit, said recipients could also top up the basic sum.
"They can take on part-time jobs or start their own business," she told Reuters.
The object is to tackle the "welfare trap" that afflicts many European economies – unemployed people often find they are better off on benefits than in work when it is available, creating a heavy burden on strained government budgets.
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It is hoped that the scheme will tackle the 'welfare trap' and encourage entrepeneurship
For Juha Jarvinen, the scheme offers an escape. A formerly bankrupt entrepreneur and father of six, Mr Jarvinen said he couldn't believe his luck when he found out he had been chosen.
"When I saw the letter, I felt like shouting yippee!" he told Reuters.
Jarvinen, an artist and joiner, said he had been unemployed for five years as taking part-time work was unprofitable and he felt returning to self-employment would have been too risky.
"I'm so relieved now that I can start doing something again. I can focus on developing my business without stressing about food," said Mr Jarvinen, who lives in the small town of Kurikka, 180 miles northwest of Helsinki.