Switzerland rejected the referendum on the minimum basic income unconditionally guaranteed from birth to death. The promoters of this initiative, which had collected 100,000 signatures in favor, estimated 2,500 Swiss francs, about 2,250 euros. For everyone, including the richest. Minors would have received 625 francs, that is, 560 euros.
The goal was to ensure that “the entire population can lead a dignified life and partake in public life, even without a gainful employment” in a world that tends to replace human work with robots. A group of independent citizens had promoted this initiative, but the government and the parliament rejected, virtually en bloc. Nonetheless, the issue has been raised and it concerns Italy too.
Working to live is not the same as living to work. That is why a “dignified” life cannot be limited to work alone, despite the fact that it ennobles man. But this issue is very difficult to tackle today: the social achievements of the ‘800 and ‘900 have been gradually lost, the protection of the trade unions has almost vanished (perhaps because of a forced interpretation over the years, which guaranteed jobs instead of protecting the employee rights. It happened even when those who obtained them, lacked commitment and professionalism). Besides, the pace of work has increased in direct proportion to the decrease of the force used. The economic crisis has created competition among tens of thousands of people, consequently their bargaining power weakened.
Basic income, although it may be hardly sustainable if we ask the sums proposed in Switzerland, might be a first solution to restore people’s dignity. Yet, it has to accompany a world of work that proposes real solutions. Otherwise, the risk is twofold: exploitation, on the one hand, and inability to sustain such assistance on the other.
Already in August 2015, during a general audience, Pope Francis stressed that work is “sacred” because it “expresses people’s dignity”. However, the goal of productivity cannot hold families “hostage”. “When work is hostage to the logic of profit alone and despises the affections of human life – the Pontiff warned – soul degradation contaminates everything: even the air, water, grass, and food” and the consequences ” affect the poor and the poorest families first of all.”
Powerful words, such as those uttered by Francis on the same issue during the hearing on the project “Policoro”, in the Italian Bishops’ Conference: “A job is not a gift to be graciously granted to a few individuals who have the right friends: it is everyone’s right.” Need I say more?