Swiss voters reject unconditional basic income plan

In a global first, Swiss citizens rejected proposal to provide basic income for everyone living inside the country, regardless of their income or assets.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

People cast their ballots in a school in Bern, Switzerland, June 5, 2016.

Switzerland held a national referendum on Sunday where voters decided to agree or disagree on the introduction of an unconditional basic monthly income.

The outcome of the polls showed that 76.9 percent of voters rejected the referendum.

Projections by the GFS polling group for Swiss broadcaster SRF had showed an estimated 78 percent of voters to reject the initiative.

The amount to be paid was yet to be set, but basic income campaigners had suggested paying 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,563) a month to each adult and 625 francs for each child.

Foreigners with legal residency permits and residing in Switzerland for five years would have also benefited from the referendum if the voters were in favour of the initiative.

Supporters said that providing such an income would have helped fight poverty and inequality in a world where good jobs with steady salaries are becoming harder to find. It would have also provide people with more flexibility to choose activities they found valuable, argued others.

Former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varofaki also spoke out in favour of the initiative. “Switzerland should see the basic income as an investment in the future,” he had said.

The backers of the initiative plastered the world's largest poster, recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, in one of Geneva's largest squares reading "What would you do if your income were taken care of?" (Reuters)

But critics of the measure, which comprise people from across the political spectrum, said the costs were exorbitant and would weaken the economy and Swiss competitiveness.

Nathalie Fontanet, a member of the Swiss liberal party and part of the committee opposing the initiative said: “We are talking about very big sums of money which, rather than encouraging people who can work to actually go and work and to be financially independent, will encourage people to not do anything, and I think that this goes against our values, and against social cohesion."

Left-wing politicians said that the measure would endanger the Swiss welfare state, and the social safety net, which supports people who were not self-reliant.

Switzerland is the first country to hold a national referendum on an unconditional basic income while other countries, including Finland, are weighing similar plans.

The proposal was put to vote after it gathered over 100,000 signatures during debates, which started in 2013.

TRTWorld and agencies