As predicted, voters in Switzerland roundly rejected a proposal for an ‘unconditional basic income’ (UBI) for all. The final count from Sunday’s vote show nearly 77 percent of residents voted against the initiative, which exceeds the figure estimated by earlier polls. The referendum was held despite a widespread lack of political support, due to Switzerland’s law that allows any proposal that collects 100,000 signatures in 18 months to be put to a public vote.
The proposal outlined a $2,500 monthly payment for each adult citizen of Switzerland, as well as legal foreign residents who have been in the country for five years or longer. The initiative also outlined $625 per month for each child. UBI programs are largely designed to help alleviate the stress of paying for basic needs, such as housing and food. In a country where the cost of living is steep, Swiss residents seemed likely candidates for a successful UBI campaign, but the government and most political parties rallied against it for months prior to the vote, arguing that ‘free money’ would make people lazy and potentially lure an influx of unwanted immigrants.
Switzerland’s UBI referendum makes it the first country in the world to vote on such an issue, although similar plans are facing debate elsewhere, and it’s difficult to predict how the results of Sunday’s vote will affect campaigns and experiments in other countries, if at all. Finland is gearing up for a small-scale UBI experiment involving 8,000 residents, while the Dutch city of Utrecht will conduct its own pilot program beginning in January 2017.