Paying your citizens to be alive – The Swiss Proposal

Truck dumps five cent coins in the centre of the Federal Square during event organised by Committee for initiative Grundeinkommen in BernI was directed to this article on the New York Times website by A2 student Annie Huang. In October this year, a truck dumped 8 million coins (see photo) in front of the Swiss Parliament along with 125,000 signatures in support of a minimum monthly wage. The coins represented the citizens of Switzerland, and the petition was enough to trigger a referendum, voting on whether Swiss citizens should receive a monthly minimum income of $2,800, no questions asked. Each Swiss person would recieve this money from the government no matter what age they are, if employed or unemployed.

Although this seems rather radical there are some interesting points made as to why it has been proposed. The proposal is the work of German Enno Schmidt who is a leader of the basic-income movement. Here are some of the reasons:

* Basic income would provide dignity and security to those underemployed and unemployed
* Empower the labour force to work they want to, rather than just getting by
* Basic income through the tax code would be fairer than band aid programmes such as benefits, housing allowances, child benefits etc.
* The one basic income would replace and reduce welfare bureaucracy that is apparent with numerous welfare schemes
* Reduce poverty and increases social mobility

Research has shown that where the basic income has been implemented not only did poverty disappear but secondary school completion rates increases, hospitalisation went down and the community values started to change.

However there are some strong arguments against:

* The cost is too great
* It creates a disincentive to work
* The basic income might be enough to live on but at a very low standard

Deeper Arguments

With the record earnings in the corporate sector but still no increase in the living standards of many, guaranteed incomes have resurfaced. Millions of workers have had no real increase in earnings since the late 1980’s. Below is an extract from the article:

The advocacy group Low Pay Is Not OK posted a phone call, recorded by a 10-year McDonald’s veteran, Nancy Salgado, when she contacted the company’s “McResource” help line. The operator told Salgado that she could qualify for food stamps and home heating assistance, while also suggesting some area food banks — impressively, she knew to recommend these services without even asking about Salgado’s wage ($8.25 an hour), though she was aware Salgado worked full time. The company earned $5.5 billion in net profits last year, and appears to take for granted that many of its employees will be on the dole. New York Times – 12th November 2013

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