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Swiss Voters Reject Proposal for Guaranteed Monthly Income

  • Lisa Schlein

People cast their ballots during a vote on whether to give every adult citizen a basic guaranteed monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,560), in a school in Bern, Switzerland, June 5, 2016.

People cast their ballots during a vote on whether to give every adult citizen a basic guaranteed monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,560), in a school in Bern, Switzerland, June 5, 2016.

Swiss voters have rejected a plan that would have guaranteed a basic monthly income to the whole population whether people work or not. The controversial referendum was rejected by nearly 77 percent of the voters.

Swiss television affirms what opinion polls had predicted - that the “unconditional basic income” initiative has been massively defeated.

Under the proposal, which was put forward by an independent citizens’ group, adults would receive about $2,500 from the government every month and children about a quarter of that amount. Foreigners who have been legal residents for at least five years, as well as all Swiss citizens would have been eligible for the stipend.

Pros and cons

Supporters claimed the plan would eradicate poverty. They say it would not cost as much as opponents fear because existing welfare payments would be cut. But the initiative garnered little or no support from most of the political parties, the government and population.

Ralph Kundig, president of the Swiss chapter of the Basic Income Earth Network and a leading proponent of the plan, said it would act as a stimulant to the economy, because people would be less afraid to take risks and more open to entrepreneurship.

But opponents said the measure would have crippled the national budget. They also said people should work for their money and not be given a handout, while warning a guaranteed monthly income would act as a magnet to attract millions of economic migrants to Switzerland.

Big budget dent

Switzerland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, but also one of the priciest to live in. Swiss officials estimated it would take $25.6 billion to cover the annual costs of the proposal, leading to deep spending cuts or significant tax increases.

The initiative garnered little or no support from most of the political parties or the government, which urged voters to reject it.

Following the referendum, Interior Minister Alain Berset said the vote showed Swiss voters supported the economic and social system in place "and that this system works well."

But Liza Mazzone, a member of the Greens Party, the only party to back the referendum, said it has succeeded in opening up a vigorous public debate on employment problems facing people today and in the future. She added that this debate will continue.

Some material for this report came from AFP, AP and Reuters.

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