Bern: Switzerland may become the first country in the world to introduce a universal basic income after Sunday’s referendum. If passed, every adult legally residing in the country would receive a monthly income of around $2,500, whether they work or not.
While the British referendum on staying in the EU continues to dominate the headlines, Switzerland’s vote on Sunday in potentially even more significant.
It concerns the so-called Universal Basic Income (UBI), which is guaranteed payment of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,500 or €2,250) per month that would be allocated to every Swiss citizen regardless of work or wealth.
Supporters of the innovative proposal on the left appealed to redistribution of wealth for common good, equality and egalitarianism. Those on the right said the UBI is about cutting the power of the coercive state, reducing welfare and “promoting freedom.”
Overall, all supporters point to the fact that 21st-century jobs are increasingly automated, meaning more and more work in industries and services are being done by robots.
Those with a job could still work but would have the monthly income deducted from their salary. In turn, “conventional” salaries would become a “symbol of appreciation,” emancipating people and making them free to choose from what they really wanted to do.
Basic Income Switzerland campaigners say the money is simply a human right and would bring people’s income in line with the cost of living.
The group claims it would encourage innovation as there would be more demand for technology to do the “dirty work” in life. Authorities would save money the ease of making a standard payment rather than a complex myriad of subsidies.
“The basic income strengthens the trend to automate such tasks. It creates the possibility for innovation,” the campaign claims.
“It gives time for reflection and creates possibilities for experiences we cannot pay for.”
Funding for the UBI is likely to come mainly from general taxation. The idea is still there since 1970s, when sociologists and economists forecasted that there would be shorter working hours and earlier retirement ages in future.
For now, many view the idea as something of a distant future, if not far-fetched, which has been reflected in the polls leaning to the “No” vote. Up to 70 percent of the voters would reject the UBI, if surveys cited in the media are to be believed.