Switzerland is voting on a proposal to give every citizen $2,500 a month, no questions asked

Switzerland are putting UBI to a national vote.
Switzerland are putting UBI to a national vote.
Image: Reuters/ Miro Kuzmanovic
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There’s been a lot of excitement over universal basic income (UBI) recently, with a venture capital firm and governments in Ontario and Norway planning trial programs.

But tomorrow (June 5), Switzerland will hold the first national vote on whether to introduce a basic income scheme. Under terms of the referendum, the government would give every adult citizen a monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs ($2,554), regardless of need.

Proponents of universal basic income programs argue that they’re the answer to rising unemployment as automation eliminates more jobs, and that they could free society from endless hours of meaningless work just to pay basic living expenses. UBI would not deter people from working, they say, as there will still be an impetus to enjoy a higher standing of living.

However, it’s extremely unlikely that Switzerland’s vote on UBI will pass.

Under Swiss law to call for a binding nationwide ballot , citizens only need 100,000 signatures to call for a binding nationwide ballot, but no major parties support the proposal. Recent polls show that more than 70% of people plan to vote against the measure, according to fivethirtyeight.

Opponents of the measure are concerned that UBI would deter people from working, and that budget cuts needed to fund the bill would weaken the Swiss economy.

Still, the vote is a landmark moment for UBI, and the movement to guarantee a basic living standard appears to be gathering momentum. Pilot programs will be gathering data on how UBI will work in practice. And so while this probably won’t be the moment for UBI’s first major victory, it won’t be the end, either.