Swiss vote against universal basic income

The Swiss have clearly rejected the universal basic income in a referendum: around 77 percent opposed it while 23 percent voted for the initiative. Commentators argue that now would have been the right time to ensure that people have an income that covers their basic needs.

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Correio da Manhã (PT) /

Alternative social models needed

The debate on the universal basic income is anything but removed from reality, journalist Francisco J. Gonçalves writes in Correio da Manhã:

“A universal basic income may be a utopian idea in today's world, but it is not a silly one. Forecasts predict that in the next five years five million jobs will be lost in the developed nations. Therefore it would be silly not to look for alternative social models for a world in which most people will no longer find employment. And precisely regarding this point the debate on a universal basic income is increasingly relevant. ”

Cyprus Mail (CY) /

Initiative blocked by EU deal

The idea of a universal basic income is good, columnist Gwynne Dyer explains in the daily paper Cyprus Mail, also pointing out why the Swiss nonetheless rejected it:

“The core principle is that everybody gets a guaranteed income that is enough to live on, whether they are poor or rich, employed or not. They can earn as much more as they want, if they can find the work, but their basic needs are covered. ... About half the remaining traditional full-time jobs in advanced economies will be eliminated by automation in the next 10-20 years, so this is an idea whose time has come. Why then did the Swiss reject it by a 4-to-1 majority? Mainly because their deal with the European Union means that they have relatively open borders.”

Sme (SK) /

Crackpot idea luckily stopped

The fact that almost 80 percent of the voters resisted the temptation of a guaranteed income of 2,500 francs testifies to the Swiss people's good sense, the daily paper Sme observes:

“A constitutional majority rejected this utopian ideological concept of 'money for nothing'. This is because not only is the idea fiscally impracticable but it also undermines work as a valuable pillar of society. The Swiss also rejected the proposal to toughen the laws governing aliens at the height of the refugee crisis, and before that the extension of paid holidays. What would have been the result of such referendums in Slovakia? … The basic income is simply another attempt by the neo-Marxist left to bring about a social revolution.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Young generation doesn't need utopias

Luckily the advocates of the basic income didn't get their way, Le Temps writes in relief:

“Of course the social safety net needs to be reformed, but not in this way. And not with a measure whose costs no one can assess. But one central question remains from the debate this spring: if work pays less and less, it is not ridiculous to ask what value citizens have in society. The parties are supposed to act as idea generators, but much to the despair of the younger generations they don't have much new to offer here. In fact generation Y is more in favour of an unconditional basic income than the elder generations, and with good reason too: it's the first that will earn less than its parents. The millennials don't want the dawn of a new utopia, they want concrete proposals.”

24 Chasa (BG) /

Bulgarians would have said no too

The Bulgarians would also reject a universal basic income because they have just as great a sense of responsibility as the Swiss, 24 Chasa posits:

“The Swiss have rejected a life-long unconditional basic income because they fear it would harm their economy. Four years ago they voted against extending their annual holidays from four to six weeks for the same reason. Responsible citizens can be asked to vote on any issue and they will always take the right decision. So why are Bulgarian politicians so afraid of referendums? If they asked the Bulgarians today whether every person should receive 2,450 dollars per month (once it became clear where the money would come from), the result would be very similar to that in Switzerland. Because regardless of whether they're Swiss or Bulgarian, the voters know best what can work and what can't.”

Sydsvenskan (SE) /

People need to work

The daily Sydsvenskan also sees little need for an unconditional basic income:

“Some people think the stigma bound up with receiving benefits will disappear with the basic income, but that's by no means certain. ... You could say that a basic income already exists in Sweden and other welfare states, in the form of social benefits. However it has little do do with the romantic dreams [of basic income proponents]. Living on welfare for a long period of time is hardly enviable; often it's a very limited and even impoverished existence. The term basic income could also become a euphemism to coldly write off everyone who is not productive enough, who is supposedly no good to society. Most people need the structure that work provides and appreciate the feeling of being needed and participating. Life is not just about work, but a life without work can be very poor indeed.”

Berliner Zeitung (DE) /

Work and income must be decoupled

The decoupling of work and income as foreseen with the universal basic income will sooner or later be necessary, Berliner Zeitung explains:

“Politicians still assume that this disparity [between rationalisation, low wages, reduced demand and a backlog of investment-seeking capital] can be solved with 'structural reforms' and constant growth that generates well-paid jobs. But what if that doesn't work? Or if it works economically but leads to an environmental disaster? ... The debate about decoupling work and income will not go away because it asks the right question: how sensible is a principle that a) constantly raises the pressure on employees, b) forces millions of people to work although the economy doesn't even need them, while c) many socially important jobs are extremely poorly paid or won't even be done because they don't yield returns?”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Karl Marx was right

The conservative daily Lidovè noviny is surprised at how popular the idea of a basic income is in the West:

“The communist utopia of everyone receiving support according to their abilities and their needs is appealing. It is not the communists who are trying to peddle it now but rational, educated people who fear a certain trend: the costs of social benefits, contributions and services are taking up a growing proportion of the welfare state's budget. Wouldn't it be better to pay people a lump sum each month to cover their basic costs? … The fact that the idea is being discussed in the West confirms Marx's prediction of 170 years ago that communism would win out in the most highly developed countries. Communism's triumph in backwards Russia was a detour in history. Now Marx could write: the spectre of communism is haunting the rich welfare states of the West.”