Swiss voters reject universal basic income proposal

7 Jun 16

Proposals for a universal basic income were overwhelmingly rejected by Switzerland’s voters in a referendum on Sunday, with 78% saying no to the scheme.

The initiative would have seen the entire population supplied with an unconditional monthly allowance, which proponents argue would help fight poverty and inequality and prepare societies for a world where most jobs are done by robots.

The government and nearly all of Switzerland’s political parties urged voters to reject the proposal, warning people would leave work, harming the economy, and of soaring costs.

A poll in the run up to the vote said 70% of voters would follow their advice. Exit polls indicate even more did so, with only 22% voting in favour of the measure.

If successful, the amount to be paid had not been decided. However the group behind the initiative had suggested paying 2,500 Swiss francs per month for each adult and 625 for each child.

The government estimated an additional 25 billion francs would be needed to cover the costs every year, meaning deep spending cuts or big tax increases.

But supporters argued that UBI could be funded through small increases in VAT or through a small fee on electronic transactions, combined with savings made by scrapping a range of other expensive and outdated social assistance programmes, designed for societies where jobs were found and kept for life.

They added that the money would be barely enough to get by in a country with one of the highest costs of living in the world, leaving plenty of incentive to work and more freedom to chose what kind of jobs are most valuable.

While there was little chance the measure would pass, Ralph Kundig, one of the lead campaigners for UBI, told AFP before the vote that “just getting a broad public debate started on this important issue is a victory”. 

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