Swiss Rejects Guaranteed Income from Government

On June 5, Swiss voters have overwhelmingly said no to a proposal, which if implemented, will guarantee a set income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,560) to its residents. This amount of money will be paid to any Swiss resident, regardless of that person being employed or not. The country is presently home to about 8.1 million people.

Almost 77 percent of voters have opposed this controversial measure. Only 23 percent of voters have welcomed the measure. Alain Berset, who heads Federal Department of Home Affairs, has said that these results are a proof that the Swiss economy is in excellent terms and there is no need to change it. Marcel Dobler, a Member of Parliament echoed the statement made by the government and said that the most people are not ready for such radical experiments.

Switzerland is not alone in debating the concept of adapting unconditional basic income. It is also under discussion in a number of countries like New Zealand, the Netherlands, Canada and Finland among other nations. Switzerland , however, is the first country to actually vote when it comes to the concept of guaranteed income on national level.  Referendum backers claim that the money will provide all adults the option of reducing working hours and maintaining a certain living standard at the same time. The May 5 vote, however, proved that Swiss citizens are not in favor of this idea. It probably helped that Swiss legislators had warned voters that passing this measure will weaken the now prosperous economy of Switzerland and will lead to a diminishing workforce. The government has also warned that the scheme would need about $200 billion every year to fund it. Therefore there would also be increases in the tax rate and public spending will also need to slashed.

Opponents of the scheme in Switzerland have attacked it as a projection to Marxist economics, forgetting that the idea is much older. The concept has been mentioned in Thomas More’s 16th century writings and Thomas Paine has also mentioned the concept in the 18th century.

Campaigners who are in favor of this scheme used robots to warn others of a future society where joblessness would be the order of the day. A few people handed out 10 franc notes at the main train station of Zurich while Geneva saw the scheme’s supporters set up a large banner which asked what the reader will do if the income comes by default. 

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