Sunday, April 24, 2016

Swiss initiative for a basic income

The idea of giving everyone in society a Universal Basic Income (Ubi) has been getting a lot of attention recently. The Finnish government is planning  a big experiment where up to 100,000 people could get about $1,100 a month. Four Dutch cities will also experiment this idea  this summer. And several other cities and states, from Canada to Spain, are interested.

Next 5th June,  Swiss citizens will vote for an unconditional basic income  equal to  2500 Swiss francs per month (about 2000 euros) that each adult would receive from the State each month as a financial safety net for the population.

This initiative has been launched a year ago by three committees, drawing inspiration from the French socialist Charles Fourier (1772-1837). This is a sign of growing public activism to combat pay inequality. The organizing committee collected more than the necessary 100 thousand signatures for the popular initiative - which under the Swiss law will be turned into political action if the initiative gets a majority of votes. The Committee B.I.E.N, at the origin of this initiative, considers that the basic income should replace the social security safety net  and the bureaucratic controls imposed to beneficiaries   

The initiative  is opposed by the government ( which fears that it would put in peril the national budget) , the  Swiss patronat which believe this would create a situation of rentier , discouraging people to go to work and trade unions which see the risk that workers will be paid less than their actual wages for 40 hours a week. Sergio Rossi, an economist from Freiburg, member of the referendum committee , argues that the basic income could be financed by social insurance system through a different redistribution system or a revenue tax.

As of today, more than 40% of the population is set to vote favourably to the referendum and it is rapidly growing which means that the initiative could go through and force the government to pass a bill on national basic income.

Philippe Van Parijs, of the Basic Income Earth Network  is promoting the idea worldwide based on academic studies and research. This debate shows that the idea of basic income is gaining momentum to tackle the inequality gap which has hit all major economies, with resulting absolute poverty. This mechanism would contribute to bridge the gap between high and low revenues and finance consumption. In current economic conditions, It is as much the general interest of society than the particular interests of the rich and the poor.

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