Unconditional basic income, a policy option that seems radical by American standards, is gaining new traction across Europe, Canada, and even a few places in the United States. Also known as “universal basic income,” the policy mandates a guaranteed stipend to every resident of a community, with no strings attached. It is promoted as a way to address rising inequality, protect against economic uncertainty, and replace increasingly austere and inadequate means-tested benefit programs. A basic income is gaining credence among economists and policymakers as a necessity in a global economy that’s failing millions of people.
A basic income is gaining credence among economists and policymakers as a necessity in a global economy that’s failing millions of people.
Switzerland is the first country to vote on unconditional basic income; its national referendum is June 5, 2016. The Swiss initiative proposes an amendment to its constitution that would give all members of the population a more dignified existence and the ability to partake in public life through a guaranteed basic monthly income. Though the amount of that income is not specified in the initiative, the sum being discussed is 2500 Swiss francs for adults and 625 francs for children under 18 (amounts that would be roughly equivalent in U.S. dollars).