More than 2,000 young people in Trondheim will be paid a fixed sum of money, without having to prove anything other than that they are without a job or educational opportunity.

Here, young adults may receive a trial basic income – the first such scheme in Norway

By providing a guaranteed minimum income to all young people under the age of 30 who are out of work or further education, the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration in this city hopes to encourage more people to enter the workforce. But will they bother to work then?

The launch of Trondheim’s basic income project will be the first time that a guaranteed minimum income is tested out in Norway.

The precise parameters of the scheme will be determined this spring.

If everything goes as the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) hopes, young people under 30 who are not working or in a higher education programme will be offered a minimum income of approximately 22,400 USD a year.

It is important for researchers to follow the project in Trondheim, says Professor Ann-Helén Bay.

Recipients do not have to prove anything other than that they do not have work and are not in an educational programme. They will continue to have access to NAV and other aid agencies. The scheme will still require a plan and goal-setting, according to Fontene (link in Norwegian), Norway’s largest union for social workers.

Linked to research

Unni Valla Skevik, the director of NAV Falkenborg in Trondheim, confirmed that administrators are now in negotiations with both the Ministry of Labour and Social Inclusion and the Directorate of Labour and Welfare. She does not yet know exactly how the project will be designed.

She does know that the project will be linked to research.

Timely project

The proposed project in Trondheim is timely, says Ann-Helén Bay.

Bay is a professor at OsloMet and has been the project manager for a knowledge summary on basic income scheme trials in modern welfare states.

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    Figures were recently released showing that the number of young people who are granted disability benefits has doubled since the start of the last decade.

    “The growing number of young people receiving disability benefits shows that we need to rethink how to prevent young people becoming alienated,” she says. 

    If NAV in Trondheim approves the project, the researcher believes it will be important to link it to research both in its design and implementation.

    “This way, the trial can contribute to solid knowledge for future policy development,” Bay says.

    A patchwork quilt

    Øyvind Spjøtvold is an advisor at NAV in Trondheim and works with youth who experience social rejection.

    “A lot of us believe that not having to deal with so many different benefit schemes would make it easier for young people,” he says.

    He describes the current situation as a patchwork of benefits that are stitched together.

    “Many have struggled with not fitting into the various schemes,” he says.

    Often ends in disability benefits

    NAV employee Øyvind Spjøtvold is optimistic about the basic income scheme project in Trondheim.

    Spjøtvoll hopes that the new project will make it easier for young people to move forward.

    “Today, there's a risk they remain in the NAV system and might end up on disability benefits because their rights are so closely linked to the healthcare system,” he says.

    Several studies in recent years have concluded that the strong link between diagnosis and social security rights in Norway is unfortunate, according to Bay.

    “Many people are sucked into a long process to get a diagnosis that entitles them to financial assistance,” she says. 

    Bay believes this can contribute to intensifying a person's problems and making them sick, so that too many people end up on disability pension too early in life.

    Not just smoking weed

    “We’ll be satisfied if we can get more young people into the workforce. That’s our goal,” says Spjøtvold.

    But will more people really start working if they’re paid a fixed sum every month, without any demands made of them?

    Simon Birnbaum, a researcher at the Institute for Futures Studies in Sweden, has studied this. He was in Oslo on February 7th and talked about the results of similar projects that have been initiated around the world.

    “People don't just kick back and smoke weed,” he can confirm. 

    Many attempts around the world

    A guaranteed minimum income, also referred to as universal basic income (UBI), involves giving people money without demanding anything from them.

    The topic has not been high on Norway’s political agenda. But around the world, there is a lot of interest in these questions. There are ongoing trials testing variations of the idea in Kenya, India, Brazil, and the USA.

    The largest experiments conducted in welfare states are from Finland and the Netherlands. These have both ended. Several smaller projects are now underway, including in Ireland and Wales, says Birnbaum.

    Many basic income projects are taking place around the world, says Simon Birnbaum. People don’t just kick back and smoke weed.

    None of these projects target all citizens in a society, which is actually the idea behind universal basic income. All are aimed at groups that already have some form of social security from the state.

    The aim of the projects is to get as many people as possible into paid employment. However, recipients have been allowed to keep the financial support even if they increase their own income. Universal basic income comes on top of what a person might otherwise earn.

    Birnbaum points out that the projects in the Netherlands and Finland are different, and they both have their limitations. But both target low-income groups.

    People do not work less

    The researchers have not found any large or clear impacts on employment in Finland or the Netherlands.

    However, individuals receiving a guaranteed minimum income do not work less than the control group.

    In some groups, they actually work a bit more, says Birnbaum.

    The idea behind the trial in Trondheim shares similarities with these two experiments, says Anne-Helén Bay.

    "In both these countries, they have tested possible solutions with the aim of simplifying and improving their social security systems," she says. 

    Better health and well-being

    The researchers found the biggest difference between the groups in the two experiments in the areas of health, trust, and well-being.

    “People who received a basic income had fewer health problems than the control group. They also had more faith in the future and their own ability to influence society,” says Birnbaum.

    Preliminary results from the Irish project point in the same direction, according to the researcher.

    More basic income recipients are satisfied with life, and fewer have anxiety and depression.


    Translated by Ingrid P. Nuse

    Read the Norwegian version of this article at

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