Op-Ed; Opinion

Swiss Basic Income: Crunching the numbers

The preliminary polls are in for all Cantons (states) in Switzerland. As many already know, the referendum did not pass, with only about 23% of voters in favor of it.

From the website for the Swiss Federal Council

Swiss 1Swiss 2

%-Yes Vote for Basic Income ; Average: 23.1 %

These are the provisional results on election day this Sunday. The final results will be in after validation by the Federal Council—a good 2 months after the vote – and the final results may differ slightly from the provisional results.

Swiss 3

Note: population numbers multiplied by 1000

According to statistics reported on PolitNetz.com, a platform that claims to provide politically independent information, all five major Swiss parties recommended a “NO” vote on the referendum.

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG) unofficially polled prospective voters in April, and the results looked slightly better than the results today:

Swiss 5

According to the Swiss government portal (www.ch.ch), a “referendum allows the people to alter the text of the constitution” to reflect changes they wish to make to the law. Within an 18 month period, 100,000 signatures must be collected in support of the referendum for it to be considered. The referendum then has to pass with both a popular majority and a majority of the cantons, for it to become the law. But even then, the government reserves the right to alter the text to suit their interpretation of it.

The Universal Basic Income initiative would have amended the Swiss Federal Constitution to read as follows:


Art. 110a (new) unconditional basic income:

  1. The Confederation shall ensure the introduction of an unconditional basic income;
  2. The basic income to enable the entire population a dignified existence and participation in public life;
  3. The law regulates in particular the financing and the amount of the basic income.


Although, the results are not a total surprise for the Swiss, in whom it is still deeply ingrained that work is tied to income, Swiss media outlets are already speculating as to the reasons  for this massive blow to the referendum. Some are saying that even the Swiss Social Democratic Party, that has been favorable towards the general idea of a basic income, feared that the text was “too vague” and all social benefits would be scrapped at once, leaving the most vulnerable even more so.

Despite the apparent “slap in the face”, many Universal Basic Income supporters see these results as very positive! Co-initiator of the Referendum, Daniel Häni reports that he’s happy with the results, “I would have only expected 15 percent approval. It is amazing and sensational that we are now at more than 20 percent.”

About Jessica "Trinley" Rafka

Jessica "Trinley" Rafka has written 2 articles.

The views expressed in this Op-Ed piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of Basic Income News or BIEN. BIEN and Basic Income News do not endorse any particular policy, but Basic Income News welcomes discussion from all points of view in its Op-Ed section.


  • TheUnseen

    It’s so sad, it’s almost funny – just like with Greece where 96% of the over 10.000 asked people said “yes” to the basic income – in the official “vote” – it was almost the other way around.
    Everyone knows that the basic income means the end of capitalism as we know it.
    No more ways to force people to take insanely underpaid messed up deadly jobs, nobody will do the dirty work anymore. The pay in most jobs will need to be doubled or tripled and for the first time, it will no longer be possible for the managers of a company to earn more than twice the income of all their employee.

    There will never be a country with a basic income, no matter how many people want it – be it 99% or 100%, it will never be allowed, come what may.
    Unless there is a revolution with millions on the street (in Germany almost 2 million people protested against TTIP in Hannover (in mainstream media it was said to have been only 100.000, but that’s what handy cameras and free media are for)).

    And just like with TTIP, a protest comprised of several millions (2 million was clearly not enough for Germany) is necessary for any country in the world to get basic income.

  • Wacinque Amistad Kaizen BeMende

    Early adopters show support! Thank You early adopters for expressing your support for a game changer…Universal Basic Income.

    • Michał

      game changer? with the basic income the inflafion would multiple this mondy will worthless soon!

  • Maurice DeNobrega

    Change is always very scary even when it makes sense. I believe when people crunch the numbers and reflect on the reality of our new global society they will come around. Its only a matter of time. I wish the program all the success.

  • In my view there is no valid reason for basic income NOT to be introduced but its introduction depends partly on changing the language of the basic income debate. The mistake made in Switzerland was to talk about a very high specific basic income that immediately raised concerns about “affordability”. In fact basic income can be anything from “neutral” where the income distribution remains exactly as it is now (but replaces existing income support) upward. That makes basic income inherently affordable. If one chooses to use basic income as a tool to alleviate poverty, as many proposals do, one could, in the first instance, introduce a small basic income as a add-on to existing income support. A small “add-on” basic income of some sort will have to be introduced first anyway because the basic income accounts, payments and admin systems will have to be 100% tested and secure before launching a full basic income. Otherwise a “big bang” changeover could lead to administrative difficulties (a bit like the fears for Y2K),

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