Income without work: Zurich to vote on universal basic income trial
As part of the latest rounds of referendums this September, residents of Zurich will vote on approving a trial scheme for a universal basic income (UBI) in the city. If approved by Swiss citizens on September 25, 500 inhabitants will be given a minimum income of 2.500 francs a month for three years, without having to do any extra work.
Universal basic income in Zurich set to be at least 2.500 Swiss francs a month
According to Blick, the plan is to give 500 residents a minimum income every month for three years. While the exact amount of money is yet to be determined, the text of the referendum says that it must comply with a "social minimum wage," determined by the newspaper to be at least 2.500 francs a month.
The amount each person receives will also be calculated by their salary, so that the payment acts as more of a social security "safety net” for workers rather than a “universal boost.” According to Basic Income Association director Silvan Groher, the test will attempt to answer a series of questions about the idea: "will people become lazy if they receive a basic income? What is the ideal amount and how much would it cost?"
Swiss voters have a rocky relationship with UBI
This isn’t the first time that universal basic income has been proposed in Switzerland, with a federal initiative to introduce UBI being rejected by 76,9 percent of voters in June, 2016. Similar ideas have also been rejected in Bern and Lucerne.
“We don't want to introduce a basic income if nobody wants it,” Groher admitted, but asserted that social security in Switzerland will still need fundamental reform, even if the proposal fails. “Social assistance only comes into play when you have almost used up your savings. In addition, it must be reimbursed,” he noted.
According to Blick, the vote in Zurich will serve as a litmus test for other cities and cantons to see whether the public is in favour of the policy - supporters are already planning another federal referendum. However, if UBI is rejected in what the paper calls the “most left-wing city in the country,” it is unlikely the idea will gain any traction in the alpine nation.