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Swiss reject universal basic income for all in referendum

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Voters in Switzerland have rejected a proposal for all citizens to recieve a basic monthly income from the government, whether they are in work or not.

Proponents of a universal basic income in Switzerland were calling for citizens to receive a minimum of around £1,755 a month

Proponents of a universal basic income in Switzerland were calling for citizens to receive a minimum of around £1,755 a month Credit: Reuters

In the first national referendum on a universal basic income, the proposal called for citizens to receive around 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,755) each month.

Around 78% voted against, projections by the GFS polling group for Swiss broadcaster SRF showed, while the government advised voters to reject the proposal.

Money for nothing

The idea of a universal basic income is that all citizens would receive a the bare minimum - salaried workers who earn more than the 2,500 francs a month would get no extra money.

Advocates insist with jobs being taken over by automation like robots on factory floors, the time has come for a minimum monthly wage for all. They say they're seeking momentum more than outright victory.

Critics warn the policy would explode the state budget.

In Switzerland an issue can go to referendum if it receives 100,000 signatures on a petition.

Swiss Francs

Swiss Francs Credit: Reuters

It was one of five issues on the ballot today, including efforts to raise money for public services and simplify the application procedures for asylum-seekers.

Under the proposed model, each child would get a quarter of the total for adults - about 625 francs per month - a sum higher than state child-care payment to families today.

Possible ways of paying for it include:

  • fees on salaries of people who earn more than the minimum
  • savings from welfare programs that would be discontinued
  • taxes
  • spending cuts in the state budget

Switzerland's basic income push is among the most advanced in Europe. The Dutch city of Utrecht wants to start a two-year experiment with a similar plan, handing money to residents who already receive welfare benefits.

Ralph Kundig, president of the Swiss chapter of the Basic Income Earth Network, said some economists favored the idea as a way to underpin consumption and support the economy.

Our parents, grandparents and beyond worked hard so that we could produce more by working less, with machines and so forth.

The only thing that they did not foresee was that this wealth would only benefit the owners of the means of production.


But an association of mostly small businesses in the southwestern Swiss region of Valais region, UVAM, was among the many voices calling for voters to reject the proposal, writing on its Web site: "No bread without work."

It lambasted the basic income proposal as "an absolute danger, because it's the perfect negation of the virtue of work" that would entrench a dependent class and cost 208 billion francs per year.

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