The Swiss Say “No, Thank You”
On June 5, the people of Switzerland rejected the universal basic income (UBI) program proposed by the Basic Income Earth Network, also known as BIEN-CH.
BIEN-CH proposed a UBI which would provide all adult citizens a welfare check of 2,500 CHF (Swiss francs) a month, plus 625 CHF for children. The proposal was voted down by 76.9% of the population. While the scheme challenges people to rethink how and why we work, the government actively urged voters to reject it. In the end, only 23% voted yes.
Advocates argue that the UBI will only provide basic necessities, with no excesses, and will not deter people from working. The proposed UBI for Switzerland is way below the mean income of the wealthy nation, meaning if anyone wants anything beyond the basics, they would still need to work.
Funding it was one of the biggest questions, as it implies a tax hike. The AFP estimates that it would cost 25 billion francs to fund the proposal.
BIEN-CH suggests funding the UBI by adding a micro-tax on Switzerland’s electronic transactions, which amounts to 100,000 billion francs annually. Marc Chesney, a professor at the University of Zurich says an additional tax of 0.2% on electronic transactions would then generate 200 billion francs, which is more than enough to not only to cover the UBI’s cost, but replace all other taxes as well.
Automation and the Threat to Human Employment
Advocates of UBI state that the developing field of automation will result in more jobless people than there are available jobs after robots take over most of the labor force, a topic that has sparked several debates the past years.
A similar initiative is being conducted by Y Combinator (YC) from Silicon valley, which chose to conduct a basic income experiment with 100 families in Oakland.
“The motivation behind the project is to begin exploring alternatives to the existing social safety net,” Elizabeth Rhodes wrote. Rhodes is the first director of the non-profit arm YC Research.
“If technology eliminates jobs or jobs continue to become less secure, an increasing number of people will be unable to make ends meet with earnings from employment. Basic income is one way to ensure that people are able to meet their basic needs. We’re not sure how it would work or if it’s the best solution, which is why we want to conduct this study.”