Almost two years ago, Swiss activists began heavily pursuing the idea of creating a state-sanctioned and funded mandatory salary—for every living Swiss citizen. Activist Enno Schmidt told PBS at the time:
It’s a civil right that your existence is not negotiable by the market. It’s for everybody, rich people, poor people.
The initiative got the requisite 126,000 signatures needed to set off a referendum, which in turn can and will be voted for this year under the Basic Income Referendum.
The Swiss go to the polls on June 5 in a referendum on an unconditional basic income (UBI). A guaranteed income for everyone, no questions asked.
The plan would cost the Swiss an estimated $208 billion every year. Monthly, adults would get 2,500 Swiss francs (around US $2,450), and children would get 625 francs (US $612). Opponents have said that giving people money makes them lazy, the phrase usually used is people will lack the incentive to be productive. However, proponents of the mandatory income say that’s not true.
The committee’s proposal is based on a survey, carried out by Demoscope Institute, which reportedly showed 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,” reported the Local.
One can look at the Fortune 500 list and wonder why all of the billionaires keep working, but I digress. The likelihood of this passing this year is unlikely, says Daniel Straub, the president of the Swiss initiative For an Unconditional Basic Income who has been a big part of pushing this referendum.
"We see it as a long-term project, and this vote is just a step." Straub is confident that even if the majority voted in favor of introducing a UBI, it would take time. "It has to be a political process that should take many years so all voices can be heard, so it's really democratic."
To make his point, Straub describes a panel discussion where a young man asked the UBI critics to outline their vision for the future, and how they planned to deal with the 4th industrial revolution. "The answer," Straub remembers, "was complete silence."