Swiss voters reject ‘money for nothing’ income plan

Swiss voters reject ‘money for nothing’ income plan

ZURICH - Reuters
Swiss voters reject ‘money for nothing’ income plan


Swiss voters rejected by a wide margin a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for everyone living in the wealthy country, projections by the GFS polling group for Swiss broadcaster SRF showed June 5. 

First projections showed around 78 percent of voters rejected the initiative by Basel cafe owner Daniel Haeni and allies in a vote under the Swiss system of direct democracy, but it captured an uneasy debate about the future of work at a time of increasing automation. Supporters had said introducing a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,563) per adult and 625 francs per child under 18 would promote human dignity and public service. 

Opponents, including the government, said it would cost too much and weaken the economy. Projections by the GFS polling outfit for Swiss broadcaster SRF showed nearly four out of five voters opposed the bold social experiment launched by Basel cafe owner Daniel Haeni and allies in a vote under the Swiss system of direct democracy. Haeni acknowledged defeat but claimed a moral victory. 

“As a businessman I am a realist and had reckoned with 15 percent support, now it looks like more than 20 percent or maybe even 25 percent. I find that fabulous and sensational,” he told SRF. “When I see the media interest, from abroad as well, then I say we are setting a trend.” Conservative Switzerland is the first country to hold a national referendum on an unconditional basic income, but others including Finland are examining similar plans as societies ponder a world in which robots replace humans in the workforce. Olivier, a 26-year-old carpenter, said he voted “yes” to the initiative. “For me it would be a great opportunity to put my focus on my passion and not go to work just for a living,” he said.

Champions of the plan had painted just such a future in a poster bigger than a football field asking “What would you do if your income was secure?” They had also marched as robots down Zurich’s high street and had handed out free 10-franc notes.

A Bern man who gave his name only as Stephan said he supported the idea as a “sustainable solution for society.” “I think people will go on working because it is a human need to be useful, to do meaningful action. In fact, I have the impression that people would be even more productive if they are productive by themselves instead of being obliged to be productive,” he said. A woman named Meleanie said she reluctantly voted “no.”

“I find that it is a real danger that once people just get their basic needs covered society doesn’t feel responsible anymore to look after the ones who can’t really handle the situation on their own”, she said.