Swiss residents will soon vote on an initiative that would guarantee a basic monthly income of 2,500 Swiss franks ($2,800) for all working adults in the country to combat income inequality across the nation. The initiative collected the 100,000 signatures needed for a referendum on the proposal, and to mark this historic initiative, a truck in the city of Bern unloaded 8 million five-cent coins, on Friday to represent Switzerland's 8 million citizens. The parliamentary vote has not yet been scheduled, but it could take place before the end of the year.
A basic income has long been a liberal pipe dream, but few countries have implemented pilot projects to test how it might work. In America, Democrats have long hoped for a minimum income, but it would be years before such a measure could be subject of a serious discussion. If the referendum passes in Switzerland and proves successful, it could spur Democrats to push for a similar policy in America.
So, how does a 2,500-franc monthly income in Switzerland compare to incomes in the United States? Let's take a look:
Median incomes in every state across the U.S. are much greater than the amount proposed in Switzerland. A person earning 2,500 francs per month would earn 33,600 francs per year, which is significantly less than the 2012 U.S. median household income of $51,413, but much greater than the 2012 poverty line of $11,170.
However, these are all median incomes, not minimum wages. The initiative in Switzerland proposes to give all working adults a basic income, not a basic median income. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the average adult worker in Switzerland works 136 hours per month. An average Swiss worker would take home a minimum wage equivalent to $20.59 per hour ($2,800/136) if the referendum passes. Here's how that compares to minimum wage laws in the United States:
The effective minimum wage Switzerland's proposal would entail is twice the minimum wage of any state in the U.S. The national minimum wage is $7.25 per hour while California this year passed the first minimum wage bill in the United States at $10 per hour. In other words, Switzerland's initiative is much better than anything currently existing in the United States, and unfortunately, no such improvements are happening soon within the U.S.