Op-Ed; Opinion

Swiss Basic Income: Too Expensive?

Author: Robin Ketelaars

The Swiss referendum for an unconditional basic income ended on June 5 with 23 percent voting yes. The organizers had expected 20%, so in many ways this was still a positive outcome.

With a turnout of only 47 percent, the result demonstrates that 53 percent of the population are indifferent about the basic income.

Opponents managed to bring forth negative stereotypes about the basic income. Enough money was available to manufacture billboards bearing the prejudices about the basic income concept. Mostly the opposition focused on the amount of money a basic income would cost, while basic income proponents had to raise awareness on their own.


Abroad, there are plenty of opponents who believe they have sufficient knowledge to comment on the basic income. Thus, according to some, the amount proposed in Switzerland is too high: SFR 2500. This seems high when it is directly converted into euros (€2,250) or dollars ($2,577), however there is more to it. The proposed amount is based on the standard of living of the Swiss, but that is rarely discussed.

The cost of living in Switzerland is 68.87% higher than in the Netherlands [1], so 2500 SFR is about the equivalent of 1480 euros, which is an appropriate amount for the Netherlands. [2]

For Europe the amount comes to 60% of the median income poverty threshold [5]

Some comparisons

Big Mac in:

  • the Netherlands € 3.71
  • Germany € 3.86
  • Basel € 6.44 [3]

A simple ticket for a ride will cost public transport in:

  • Paris € 1.80 / trip
  • Hamburg € 1.50 / trip
  • Rome € 1.50 / trip
  • Amsterdam € 0.89 + € 0.154 / km
  • New York $ 2.65 / Trip
  • Basel € 3.10 / 1 ZONE / 1 hour
  • Zurich € 2.60 / 1 ZONE / 1 hour [4]



[1] http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/country_result.jsp?country=Switzerland&displayCurrency=EUR

[2] http://basisinkomen.nl/debat-basisinkomen-haalbaar-betaalbaar-utrecht-22-mei-2016/

[3] http://www.statista.com/statistics/274326/big-mac-index-global-prices-for-a-big-mac/

[4] Basel http://www.bvb.ch/en/tickets-fares/standard-fares/single-tickets

Zuerich https://www.stadt-zuerich.ch/vbz/en/index/tickets/tickets_prices/day_pass_single_ticket.html

Amsterdam http://www.amsterdamtips.com/tips/transport-tickets.php

New York http://web.mta.info/metrocard/mcgtreng.htm#payper

Rome https://www.rometoolkit.com/transport/rome_travel_pass.htm

Hamburg http://www.hvv.de/en/tickets/single-day-tickets/overview/

[5] http://appsso.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/nui/show.do

About Guest Contributor

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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.

One comment

  • Jim

    Enno Schmidt of Basic Income Switz at 2:35 of the interview says the basic income amount was too low, as Swiss on welfare get $3-4k a month which accounts for a large part of the rejection in the referendum. I’ve read that it was rejected that is was too high and unaffordable. Seems we need to learn a bit more about it.


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