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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Swiss Voters Consider Guaranteed Income For All

In a publicity stunt this fall, advocates of the guaranteed income proposal dumped eight million coins outside the Parliament building in Bern -- one for every Swiss citizen. (Kopf oder Zahl/Flickr)

In a publicity stunt this fall, advocates of the guaranteed income proposal dumped eight million coins outside the Parliament building in Bern — one for every Swiss citizen. (Kopf oder Zahl/Flickr)

Swiss residents will soon vote on a referendum that would provide an unconditional monthly income to every adult. If passed, each citizen will be guaranteed $2,800 per month — that’s $33,600 a year.

The guaranteed income concept is gaining steam in many parts of the world: there are pilot projects in India, Brazil and Namibia.

Both liberals and conservatives find merit in providing basic incomes to individuals — for different reasons. Progressives see it as an anti-poverty measure; conservatives believe it will reduce the size of government by getting rid of food stamps and welfare programs.

There are concerns about whether it would create a disincentive to work, but some experts say the effect might be smaller than expected.

A study by economist Evelyn Forget of the University of Manitoba examined a small rural town in Canada, where about 1,000 poor families were guaranteed a minimum income for four years in the 1970s. Forget found not only that poverty disappeared, but that high school graduation rates went up and hospitalization rates went down.

Financial Times reporter Cardiff Garcia joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to discuss the basic income concept.

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