Across Geneva and Berlin, massive banners have been rolled out revealing the question; “What would you do if your income were taken care of?”
The banners are part of a campaign in Switzerland to introduce a universal basic income of 2,500 Swiss Francs ($AU3,500) per month for every citizen, for their entire life. You could still work a job, but your monthly income would be deducted from your earned salary.
Basic Income Switzerland supporters say a universal income is a human right and will bring income in line with the costs of living. Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in and according to Numbero, cost of living in the country is 59.13 percent higher than Australia.
The approach, campaigners say, would give people the freedom to do what they want to do, rather than slugging away in a job they hate to pay the bills.
It would also encourage innovation in order to automate the tasks that no one wants to do, they say.
“The basic income strengthens the trend to automate such tasks. It creates the possibility for innovation. “It gives time for reflection and creates possibilities for experiences we cannot pay for.”
The idea will be put to voters on Sunday after the campaign gained over 100,000 signatures. In Switzerland’s democratic system, this kind of attention allows bills to be gauged by the public vote.
But it looks unlikely to succeed, with multiple polls showing over 70 percent of citizens slamming the idea as a “Marxist dream”, fearing many people would quit their jobs to live the slackers life. Probably a fair assumption.
Official spokesman for the group, Che Wagner, says regardless of the result, it’s definitely a step in the right direction. He’s hoping to get over 20 to 25 percent support.
“This is the first round but we’re really surprised how well it has gone….All the bigger political projects in the past have been declined once or twice,” he said.
“Within seven to 15 years the basic income will be a reality here in Switzerland.”
Gotta love that optimism! Former Greek finance minister Yanis Varofakis also supports the idea, saying it will allow people to aim higher without needing to worry about a regular salary.
“think of basic income as a foundation, not a net. A floor on which to stand solidly and to be able to reach for the sky,” he says.
Others say it will cause the country’s economy to crumble and that rising costs will simply make living on that income alone completely unsustainable. Charles Wyplosz, economics professor at Geneva Graduate Institute says people will embrace the simple life.
“If you pay people to do nothing, they will do nothing.”
A similar idea was put forward in Australia, but gained nowhere near the support it has in Europe, with Finland and The Netherlands already introducing pilot programs to test its viability.
It does seem fairly tempting to ditch the 9 to 5 if you weren’t at all obliged to do it, but wouldn’t we all grow tired of doing nothing? Or perhaps the dream places too much assumption on the altruism of others – would we do good things, or pursue useful projects out of the goodness of our hearts?
All eyes will be on the pilot programs for answers.