Switzerland rejects basic income proposal in historic vote

A voter has their say in the Swiss referendum (Reuters)
A voter has their say in the Swiss referendum (Reuters)

Swiss voters have rejected paying everyone in the country a guaranteed income of NZ$3700 a month.

The proposal was voted down 76.9 percent to 23.1 percent at the weekend's referendum, the first held in any country.

Supporters say it would replace the inefficient welfare system, and provide security to workers as the world adapts to growing automation of jobs.

It would also recognise the work done by volunteers, free up people in dead-end jobs to pursue their passions and start businesses.

The government opposed the plan, telling voters the existing system "works well'. Right-wing parties in the Swiss parliament said it would encourage low-income migrants.

Café owner Daniel Haeni, who fronted the campaign for a basic income, said it was "fabulous and sensational" to get 23 percent voting in favour, having only expected 15 percent.

Official statistics show fewer than 7 percent of Swiss live in poverty. The suggested $3700 rate -- equivalent to about the average New Zealand wage -- reflects Switzerland's high cost of living, Reuters reported.

The Swiss also voted to speed up the country's asylum application process and allow genetic testing of embryos prior to in-vitro fertilisation.

They rejected proposals to limit the pay packets of government-owned companies and to put more money into roads.