Switzerland is special in many ways: four official languages, 34% migrants in a population of 8 million, and the headquarters of many international organisations around Lake Geneva. Another one of its special characteristics is the regular conduction of popular votes: any party, organisation or group of citizens can bring an issue to the population’s attention, ask for support and – if 100,000 citizens agree – a popular vote is organised to determine whether a constitutional amendment should be made.
In the summer of 2016, a popular vote on a Basic Income took place. While the proposition to grant an unconditional basic income to every citizen failed to reach a majority, it sparked a national debate of unprecedented intensity and made headline news around the world.
The work of many people and organisations that relentlessly disseminated, discussed and debated all aspects of a basic income to, first, collect signatures for a mandate and, second, support citizens in arriving at an informed decision, can be considered a milestone in the history of basic income. Given how far related news and images travelled, activities, achievements and events around the Swiss vote had a truly global impact.
Six ‘turning points’ in the history of Basic Income in Switzerland are assembled here, starting from the founding of the first official organisation promoting a basic income, BIEN-SUISSE (BIEN-Switzerland), in 2001 and finishing with the popular vote on 5 June 2016 that was carried across the finishing line in a collective effort by numerous organisations and supporters, including Initiative Grundeinkommen (Initiative Basic Income), Generation Grundeinkommen (Generation Basic Income) and BIEN-SUISSE.
The Swiss branch of the BIEN network was founded in 2001 to organise the 9th International BIEN Congress in Geneva in 2002. At a workshop preceding the International Congress, the association decided to continue pursuing the issue in Switzerland.
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