Voters in Switzerland struck down a controversial proposal that would have provided a guaranteed monthly income for all citizens of the country. The plan, named Universal Basic Income, has been a hotly debated issue as automation slowly creeps in and takes over many traditional jobs.

Believing the income initiative would advance human dignity and public service, the program would have required the government to provide a monthly stipend of 2,500 Swiss francs, or about $2,563, to every adult, plus an additional 625 francs per child. The money would be given out regardless of how much work was done.

Rejected by the majority

Over 76 percent of Swiss voters disagreed with the monthly income plan. Many, including the government, successfully argued it would significantly damage the economy, discourage work, and simply cost too much to sustain.

The originator of the idea, entrepreneur Daniel Haeni, was disappointed by the defeat, but remains optimistic about a victory in the future. The self-proclaimed “realist” said the monthly income plan garnered worldwide attention and is now poised to gain much wider support.Haeni may not be wrong.

According to a recent poll by Dalia Research, 68 percent of Europeans who live in an EU member state said they would likely vote for a guaranteed income plan if put before them.

Switzerland is the first country to hold a national vote on a monthly income plan. Other countries, such as Finland, have studied similar initiatives as the world’s labor force is slowly being replaced by robots.

Promoting human welfare or economic collapse?

Advocates of the plan believe if people did not have to worry about a job or income, they would be more likely to pursue other passions or even humanitarian goals.

To gain support, a soccer field-sized poster was created asking, “What would you do if your income was secure?” Additionally, many campaigners marched as robots in the streets of Zurich handing out 10-franc notes to passersby.

Employers across Switzerland were relieved when the monthly income program was rejected. If the proposal had been accepted, most are convinced people would choose to stay home instead of going to work, significantly weakening a robust economy in a country with only 3.5 percent unemployment.

According to Swiss government statistics, the proposal would have cost 208 billion Swiss francs annually. While the majority of the outlays can be covered by eliminating existing social payments, deep spending cuts or substantial tax increases would be required to make up an estimated 25 billion Swiss franc gap.

While the vote for the monthly income plan went against supporters, they say the revolutionary idea will eventually need to be implemented at some point in the future. As robots decimate many jobs, but nations continue to build wealth, these countries can afford and must provide money beyond the basic needs of citizens irrespective of the amount of work an individual produces.

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