Switzerland holds referendum on basic income


An 8,000sq m poster on the Plainpalais Square in Geneva (14 May 2016)

Switzerland is voting on whether to introduce a guaranteed basic income for every citizen, becoming the first country to hold such a vote.

The proposal calls for adults to be paid an unconditional monthly income, whether they work or not.

Supporters of the idea say 21st Century work is increasingly automated, with fewer jobs available for workers.

But polls suggest that only about one quarter of Swiss voters back the idea.

No figure has been set, but those behind the proposal have suggested a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,755; $2,555) for adults and SFr625 for each child, reflecting the high cost of living in Switzerland.

There is little support among Swiss politicians for the idea and not a single parliamentary party has come out in favour, but the proposal gathered more than 100,000 signatures and is therefore being put to the vote under the Swiss popular initiative system.

Critics of the measure say that disconnecting the link between work done and money earned would be bad for society.

But Che Wagner from the campaign group Basic Income Switzerland, says it wouldn’t be money for nothing.

“In Switzerland over 50% of total work that is done is unpaid. It’s care work, it’s at home, it’s in different communities, so that work would be more valued with a basic income.”

The popular initiative system

  • Allows citizens to suggest changes to the federal constitution
  • All initiatives that gather 100,000 signatures in 18 months go to a public vote
  • A constitutional amendment by initiative not only requires a majority public vote but a majority of cantons must also approve it
  • Differs from the mandatory referendum, which is called by parliament and does not need public signatures

But Luzi Stamm, who’s a member of parliament for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, opposes the idea.

“Theoretically, if Switzerland were an island, the answer is yes. But with open borders, it’s a total impossibility, especially for Switzerland, with a high living standard,” he says.

“If you would offer every individual a Swiss amount of money, you would have billions of people who would try to move into Switzerland.”

The wording on the initiative is vague, asking for a constitutional change to “guarantee the introduction of an unconditional basic income” but with no mention of amounts.

The idea is also under consideration elsewhere. In Finland, the government is considering a trial to give basic income to about 8,000 people from low-income groups.

And in the Dutch city of Utrecht is also developing a pilot project which will begin in January 2017.

The basic income is one of five issues on the Swiss ballot on Sunday, with people also voting on funds for public services and the simplification of the application procedures for asylum-seekers.


[Source  BBC]