Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Swiss vote shows the way on a basic income

It might have been defeated by a comfortable margin of 77% to 23% but the [proposal put to a referendum in Switzerland to pay every citizen a basic income points towards a new approach to tackling inequality.

The proposal would have seen every adult citizen paid £1755 per month with a smaller payment given to children.

This, supporters claimed would recognise the huge amount of unpaid work done by carers, Che Wagner of campaign group Basic Income Switzerland told the BBC "In Switzerland over 50% of total work that is done is unpaid. It's care work, it's at home, it's in different communities, so that work would be more valued with a basic income."

Supporters said a basic income would also address the 'march of the robots'' as ever more jobs are automated.

At the 2015 general election the Green Party campaigned on a manifesto proposing a reform of the tax and benefits system that would see most existing benefits, apart from housing and disability benefits, scrapped along with the personal income tax allowance.

In their place every man, woman and child legally resident in the UK would be paid 'resident in the guaranteed, non-means-tested income, sufficient to cover basic needs – a Basic Income.'

Like the proposed Swiss basic income this would recognise and reward work done outside the formal economy and help to address social inequality, it would also help with the necessary transition to a more sustainable economy.

Switzerland is the first country to vote on a basic income, other European countries are looking at something similar. The Finnish government is considering a trial programme to give a basic income to 8000 people from low income groups, the Dutch city of Utrecht is also considering a similar pilot project set to begin in January 2017.

The Swiss electorate may have rejected a basic income on this occasion, the idea behind the proposal is still relevant.

It prompts us to think about how we reward unpaid work like caring, our response to technological change and how we share wealth and resources fairly.

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