Swiss reject proposal for a guaranteed income

A huge poster reading What would you do if your income were taken care of? is pictured on the Plaine de Plainpalais square in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: AP

A huge poster reading What would you do if your income were taken care of? is pictured on the Plaine de Plainpalais square in Geneva, Switzerland. Picture: AP

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Swiss voters have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal that would have guaranteed everyone in the country an unconditional basic income.

Final results from yesterday’s referendum showed that 78 per cent of voters opposed the plan, with only 22 per cent backing it.

The plan could have seen people in this wealthy nation of eight million people receive about 2,500 Swiss francs (£1,765) per month – enough to cover their basic needs. Proponents argued that a basic income would free people from meaningless toil and allow them to pursue more productive or creative goals.

But critics said the plan would explode the state budget and encourage idleness.

Based on a partial count of results from 19 Swiss cantons, the gfs.bern polling group calculated that 78 per cent of voters opposed the measure against 22 per cent in favour.

The Swiss government itself advised voters to reject the proposal put forward by left-wing campaigners who collected the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue.

But the idea has won over some economists, who have said that it could replace traditional welfare payments and give everybody the same chances in life.

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

He said: “In Switzerland over 50 per cent 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.”

But Luzi Stamm, a member of parliament for the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, argued: “If you would offer every individual a Swiss amount of money, you would have billions of people who would try to move into Switzerland.”

Salaried workers who earned more than the basic income would have received no extra money, while children would have received one-quarter of the total for adults.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is planning a two-year experiment with a similar plan, handing money to residents who already receive welfare benefits.

Proposals to reform publicly owned companies and financing of transport routes were also rejected yesterday, while voters backed plans to simplify asylum-seeker application procedures and a bill allowing the screening of embryos before they are in the womb.

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