By: Amanda Froelich,
“If you weren’t afraid of anything, what would you do?” is a common question asked to inspire one to let go of any limitations holding them back. And while it’s an exhilarating ponderance, the reality is that most have financial obligations and dependents relying on their monetary income to survive. And with pressure like that, there’s not always opportunity to day-dream when day-to-day concerns demand constant attention.
But to alleviate this issue and provide opportunity beyond basic growth, the Swiss have devised a plan. Whether one is working or not, Switzerland may start paying its citizens the equivalent of about $2,000 per month. This procedure is based on the idea that citizens will have more time to devote to things they are intrinsically interested in, rather than spending the majority of their time worrying about how they are going to survive.
It sounds like fantasy, especially because many individuals with entry level positions find it hard to meet their needs, but if voted and passed by the people, may become reality. This income initiative would provide every Swiss citizen a living wage so they can always survive without financial worry.
To be paid the 2,500 francs a month would equal out to about 30,000 Swiss francs per year. But because Switzerland is the third most expensive country in Europe, it will be money well spent. Citizens pay particularly high prices for meat, cooking oil, fish, and vegetables. Basic utilities (heat, water, electricity, garbage) can also run up the bill, with the average cost around 200 francs per month. And an average one-bedroom apartment in the city center goes for about 1,400 francs / month.
Daniel Straub, co-founder of Basic Income Initiative, shares why the change is so needed: “Imagine you are being born and society tells you, “Welcome, you will be cared for, and asks you what you want to do with your life, what is your calling? Imagine that feeling, that’s a whole different atmosphere.” If basic concerns, such as security, societal ties, and financial resources, are met, opportunity to think beyond oneself is a possibility.
Currently, this country has 8.02 million people living within its borders. 100 thousand of these signed a petition which was presented to parliament with the proposal: to afford every citizen, regardless if they are working or not, a monthly paycheck of 2,500 Swiss francs. And to mark the day, a truck released over 8 million 5-cent coins onto the square, dumping it out in front of the Swiss Parliament in Bern. Supporters were seen spreading out the pile with shovels.
According to the proposal, anything less than the 2,500 francs (what a typical fast-food worker makes in the US) would be illegal – even for the lowest paying jobs.
But this initiative is not set yet, however. A date has yet to be confirmed depending on the Swiss government’s decision. To fund such a measure, money would most likely be supplied by the Swiss social insurance system. In other words, it would be taken from tax-payers. Therefore the issue of whose going to supply such funds is an important topic that comes into account – and it’s not the only controversial aspect of this initiative.
Regardless if a worker’s labor reflects their wage, business owners will be required to pay a certain amount. The idea to set the standard of minimum wage higher is admirable, but the move might prompt business owners to take their company elsewhere in effort to gain more freedom to pay what they prefer in wages.
This, in effect, could reduce the benefit they gain from the Swiss market, or drive other competitive business owners into the country to attract new customers. For Glencore CEO, Ivan Glasenberg, such a move would force him to seriously consider moving his company out of the country, “I can’t believe that Switzerland would cause such great harm to its economy.”
But one thing is for sure: progressive solutions to curb such challenges are arising at an increasing rate.
Switzerland may have one of the most stable economies – with an unemployment rate at about 3% – but its people and government are not immune to the challenges and changes that affect all.
If the initiative will be voted in remains to be seen, but for those seeking basic security, at least solutions are being offered to remedy difficult situations.