Switzerland Votes on a Guaranteed Monthly Income of 2,500 Swiss Francs
Switzerland will be the first country ever to vote on a basic guaranteed income that would replace various welfare programs. The country's Federal Council has approved the ballot measure that would grant each adult citizen 2,500 Swiss Francs, or about £1,712, or $2,500 and each child about £428 a month. Those without work would receive this full amount and those employed earning less than this amount would have their income topped up to this total of unconditional, untaxed income.
The June 5th referendum isn't likely to pass in the famously fiscally conservative country, despite some flamboyant money distribution promotions. In October 2013, the debate began with a petition in favour of the initiative with over 100,000 signatures being handed in to parliament to secure a public vote. This was marked by supporters dumping thigh high piles of CHF0.05 coins onto the square in front of Switzerland’s parliament building in Bern. Delighted Swiss passersby cavorted merrily in the golden coloured coins. For their next campaign push, the proponents of the law took to Zurich’s main train station this March where they distributed CHF10 (£6.85 or about $10) notes to crowds of eager commuters during a Monday morning rush hour. The notes had all been stamped with the name of the initiative and a reminder of the date of the vote, June 5, 2016.
European Governments Differ in Attitudes
The Swiss government is opposed to the initiative, saying it would be damaging to the economy; it warns that new taxes and spending cuts would be necessary to fund the measure that would cost an additional 25 billion Swiss Franc annually. The initiative follows the government programs already underway in Finland. The Finnish government is poised to implement a social experiment with 10,000 randomly selected Finns over 18 by testing out the results of providing various levels of a basic income between 550-750 euro. Researchers will study the results for two years to see whether a certain level of economic security has a positive effect on employment levels or whether it will, as critics suggest, reduce the incentive to work. Four places in the Netherlands will also introduce basic income experiments. European Union experts are following all of these experiments closely in case they provide economic and social insights which could be relevant for the whole of the EU.
Vote Not Likely to Pass
Campaigners have repeatedly stated they have no expectation of seeing the referendum win in June, yet seem satisfied to have brought attention to the argument. Polls have shown that the law isn’t likely to be approved by a majority of the electorate and the country's 26 cantons, or districts, as only about 40% of Swiss voters are expected to support the initiative. Critics point out that even if the law did gain a majority, the suggested sum of 2,500 is scarcely higher than the 2,219 Swiss Francs poverty rate and falls far below the median wage before taxes of 6,427 francs. Those who did receive the amount would hardly find themselves financially secure, especially in expensive cities such as Zurich.
If Money Were No Object
Research reported that only 2% of the Swiss surveyed said they would consider quitting their job if the law passed. Just over half said they would take advantage of the guaranteed income to spend more time with their families and study. 40% said they would use the additional time to volunteer more. The most recent survey, commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, published on Wednesday, showed that 71% of respondents said they planned to reject the initiative, while 26% said they would approve it. The results have been consistent, showing that there is only slightly increasing support among leftwing parties and younger people.
This is the second nationwide vote this year. In February when voters turned out in their highest figures in 20 years at 63%, the issue was whether or not to deport criminal foreigners. Voter turnout in June is likely to be back to normal levels of around 48%. The other issues on the ballot sheets, aside from the initiative to introduce an unconditional basic income, is a proposal by consumer groups to boost public services. A plan to provide extra tax funds for road transport as well as a pair of parliamentary decisions: a reform of asylum procedures and a bill on pre implantation genetic diagnosis are also on the ballot.