- A Swiss filmmaker is raising money to start a basic-income experiment for hundreds of residents in the town of Rheinau.
- Participants ages 25 and older will receive $AU2,714 a month for a year.
- In a 2016 referendum, 77% of Swiss voters said they did not support a universal basic income.
Two years ago, voters in Switzerland overwhelmingly rejected a referendum on universal basic income, with over two-thirds of voters saying they did not support a program giving citizens unconditional cash payments every month.
Nonetheless, the so-called basic-income proposal appealed to the Swiss filmmaker Rebecca Panian. In light of the threat of automation replacing a growing number of jobs, she decided to launch her own experiment. She told Business Insider that the election of President Donald Trump also contributed to her decision.
“Before that I have to admit that I often wanted to do something, but I didn’t dare because there was always the voice in my head telling me: ‘What can you do, honestly? And who are you anyway,'” Panian wrote in an email. “But with Trump becoming president of the U.S., I told myself: if this person gets there, if a ‘Trump’ is possible, I can very well look for a village to test the UBI.”
Panian has chosen the village of Rheinau to conduct a study in which participants ages 25 or older will receive 2,500 francs, or $AU3,618, at the start of each month for a year, regardless of employment status. Those ages 22 to 25 will receive 1,875 francs, or $AU2,714, a month, with lower amounts for younger adults and children.
After selecting the town from a list of about 100 that had expressed interest, Panian needed at least half of Rheinau’s residents to sign up for the pilot.
About 880 of the village’s 1,300 residents signed up. Participants whose income is higher than their monthly basic income will need to pay back their basic income at the end of the month. Panian said these residents would help finance the experiment.
“In reality, the basic income has to be financed by some sort of redistribution of money,” Panian wrote in an email. “If you would pay everyone MORE you actually needed to create more money, which would end in an inflation and with that the whole UBI-thought wouldn’t make sense because the amount of the UBI couldn’t secure a person to live on it!”
Residents’ responses will be used to determine how much money needs to be raised before starting the experiment. Panian said crowdfunding would most likely begin in mid-October.
The national proposal rejected by Swiss voters would have been funded through people’s taxes, but the Rheinau experiment will be privately funded. Panian needs to crowdsource the necessary funds, and if she is successful, she will film a documentary and work together with sociologists, an economist, and a media linguist to analyse the outcomes, The Local reported.
Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, and Panian told Business Insider she did not want to focus the experiment on fighting unemployment or poverty. Instead, the experiment is meant to show how a universal basic income can affect a community, she said.
The Swiss experiment adds to a growing list of basic-income trials around the world. In the United States, a pilot focusing on low-income black women is set to start soon in Jackson, Mississippi, giving $US1,000 ($AU1,393) to 15 single mothers. In Stockton, California, an 18-month trial beginning in February 2019 aims to provide 100 people with $US500 ($AU696) a month.
Other recent trials have not gone so smoothly.
Y Combinator delayed its basic-income study until next year after a pilot in Oakland, California, took longer than planned. The provincial government of Ontario, Canada, canceled a three-year basic-income pilot with 4,000 participants. Despite the premier’s promise to let the program keep running, participants are now to stop receiving monthly cash payments in March 2019, one year early.
In Europe, a prominent two-year trial in Finland is ending in a few months despite researchers’ interest in expanding the pilot beyond just those who are unemployed.
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