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Spectacular launch of Swiss basic income campaign

Mon, 04 Apr 2016 | By NNA staff

The Swiss initiative for a basic income has launched its referendum campaign in spectacular fashion. Campaigners distributed ten-franc notes because “the Swiss can’t imagine what it is like to be given money just like that”.


ZÜRICH (NNA) – The Swiss initiative for an unconditional basic income has dramatically launched its referendum campaign by distributing ten-franc notes with “Yes” stickers on at Zurich railway station.

The referendum will be held on 5 June, making Switzerland the first country in the world to vote on an unconditional basic income, also known as universal basic income or citizen’s income.

The distribution of the banknotes as campaign flyers follows on from an action in October 2013 when eight million five centime pieces were tipped out in front of the parliament building.

Experience had shown that it was not so easy for the Swiss to imagine “what it is like to be given money just like that” the initiators told the Swiss media.

The initiative wants to use the referendum to sever the link between work and income: according to the proposal, all people living in Switzerland would be given a basic income irrespective of any occupation. The aim is to “place a greater value on work, enhance people’s motivation and give them greater room for manoeuvre and responsibility of their own,” the initiative says on its website.

Humanistic response

Daniel Häni, one of the initiators of the referendum, counters the objection that a citizen’s income would undermine motivation with the argument that 90 percent of respondents in a survey had said they would continue working even if they received a universal basic income.

The established Swiss parties reject the initiative, as does the Swiss federal council and parliament. But the activists for a universal basic income are not going to let themselves be deterred by that: “It’s naive to imagine that we will get a majority at the first attempt” – the important thing was that the subject was being debated.

Trials with a universal basic income are planned in the Netherlands, Finland and Canada, among other places. The initiative argues that changes in the world of work, which have meant the loss of many jobs to automation, make the referendum necessary. The universal basic income was a “humanistic repsonse” to technological progress.

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Item: 160404-02EN Date: 4 April 2016 

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