Thursday, 24 March 2016

Proposed vote seeks basic income for all

A friend was given a 10 franc note this week at Zurich Hauptbahnhof – and so were hundreds of others! The cash giveaway was highlighting an incredibly inspired vote which will hit the ballot box this June.

In the summer referendum, every Swiss adult resident will have the right to a guaranteed basic monthly income of 2,500 francs a month if the proposal to voters is accepted!

If the plans, which will go to the ballot box on 5th June, go through, our country will become the first in the world to provide a guaranteed unconditional monthly income to its residents, whether they are in employment or not. The idea has been put forward by a group of intellectuals with the aim to break the link between employment and income. The initiative also aims to give each child 625 francs a month.

The committee’s proposal is based on a survey, carried out by Demoscope Institute, which demonstrated that the majority of Swiss residents would carry on working, or still look for a job, even if the guaranteed income was approved. The survey also said only two per cent of people were likely to stop working, while eight per cent said they ‘could envisage this possibility depending on circumstances.’

In a statement, the committee said: “The argument of opponents that a guaranteed income wouldn’t reduce the incentive of people to work is by this largely contradicted.”

The federal government estimates the cost of the proposal at 208 billion francs a year. Around 153 billion taxes would have to be levied from taxes, while 55 billion francs would be transferred from social insurance and social assistance spending.

The action committee pushing the initiative consists of artists, writers and intellectuals, including publicist Daniel Straub, former federal government spokesman Oswald Sigg and Zurich rapper Franziska Schläpfer (known as ‘Big Zis’) Personalities supporting the bid include writers Adolf Muschg and Ruth Schweikert, philosopher Hans Saner and communications expert Beatrice Tschanz.

I can imagine people will poo-poo this idea as impossible – but I really think this would work. How it would revolutionise society! In any case, I’m sure the campaign garnered a good deal of support in its promotion at Zurich HB this week. The really funny thing is that my friend, who is French, said people formed an orderly queue to receive their free 10 franc notes and commented how it would have been a chaotic free for all if it took place in his home country. Of course, you have to admit, if any country is going to make this work, Switzerland is certainly the one to do it.


  1. There are some very strong economic arguments for the basic income project – especially if it replaced other welfare programmes (eliminating the administration costs of means testing). Best of all, it's actually been tried at various times and places, and yielded solid results. The best known was the "Mincome" project in a Canadian town.

    I'm very pro-basic income. And I love that Switzerland's political system means it can be proposed as a serious national possibility. Unfortunately, I think that same system means it's doomed. The proposers haven't made any effort that I've seen to motivate how it can be paid for, leaving that to government; but that means govt can scare voters off by saying it would have to be paid for with a rise in VAT – which is a regressive tax and so very counter-productive. This is basically a move to make headlines and raise the profile of the basic income movement around the world. It's not a serious effort... at least, not yet.

  2. Hi Robynn, thank you for your wonderfully comprehensive comment. And very inspiring. I am so glad you are for this idea too. You're right, there aren't a great deal of inspired details of how this would work financially but it is a big move forward and does indeed get us talking and thinking and hopefully working out how it can all be achieved.