Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to guarantee an income to Switzerland’s residents, whether or not they are employed, an idea that has also been raised in other countries amid an intensifying debate over wealth disparities and dwindling employment opportunities. About 77 percent of voters rejected a plan to give a basic monthly income of 2,500 Swiss francs, or about $2,560, to each adult, and 625 francs for each child under 18, regardless of employment status, to fight poverty and social inequality and guarantee a “dignified” life to everyone. Switzerland was the first country to vote on such a universal basic income plan, but other countries and cities either have been considering the idea or have started trial programs. Finland is set to introduce a pilot program for a random sample of about 10,000 adults who will each receive a monthly handout of 550 euros, about $625. The intent is to turn the two-year trial into a national plan if it proves successful. In the Netherlands, Utrecht is leading a group of municipalities that are experimenting with similar pilot projects.
In the United States, the idea of a guaranteed income has gained some traction in the run-up to the presidential election in November. It has been promoted by some Democrats who are demanding more social justice, but it also has some right-wing advocates who see it as a better alternative to government welfare programs.
In Switzerland, opponents warned that the proposal would derail an economic model that, far from showing signs of near-collapse, has allowed the country to remain among those with the highest living standards in the world, even with a growing and aging population. Switzerland has an unemployment rate of around 3.5 percent, less than half the average in the European Union.