State Secretariat for the Economy (SECO) and the Federal Office for Industry, Trade and Labor (BIGA)

The State Secretariat for the Economy is now responsible at the federal level for unemployment insurance and protecting working conditions. It encompasses the former Federal Office for Industry, Trade and Labor, considered one of the key stakeholders in the history of Swiss social security.

Concerning the division of tasks at the federal level, unemployment insurance (ALV) has always been different from the other branches of social security. Unemployment insurance shares a close history with labor market regulation and the protection of working conditions. Today, the State Secretariat for the Economy (SECO) is responsible for the regulation and implementation of unemployment insurance, while other social security programs come under the remit of the Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV) and, since 2004, the Federal Office for Public Health (BAG). Like its predecessor organization, SECO forms part of the Federal Department of Economic Affairs.

SECO was founded in 1998/1999 as a result of a merger between the Federal Office for Industry, Trade and Labor (BIGA) and the Federal Office of Foreign Economic Affairs (BAWI). BIGA played a particularly important role in the history of social security. For decades, it was one of the key state actors in the area of unemployment insurance and labor protection. The BIGA was founded in 1929 after a merger between the former Department for Trades and Labor and the Federal Labor Office. The aim of the reorganization was to combine related duties in both departments. Since its foundation in 1920, the Federal Labor Office represented the Swiss interface with the International Labor Organization (ILO). In particular, its responsibilities included collecting statistical data on labor conditions and combating unemployment. It was also entrusted with tasks related to labor law. Supporting the employment agency and addressing unemployment were instead duties incumbent on the Department for Trades and Labor. This also encompassed the factory inspectorate, which began monitoring compliance with labor protection regulations in 1877. It was likewise responsible for vocational training. 

Due to the fact that the unemployment insurance act of 1924 did not include compulsory insurance and represented a mere framework and subsidy act, BIGA handled related tasks in a supervisory and monitoring capacity. This included the recognition and financial monitoring of unemployment funds that received federal subsidies. In addition, premiums were set in 1942 for the newly created compensation fund of the Income Compensation Scheme for Militia Soldiers (EO). BIGA took a leading role in the revision of the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1951 as well as the preparations for insurance obligation after the recession of 1973/1974. In view of its introduction, the Unemployment Insurance Section was overhauled into a Department in 1978. Since the new Unemployment Insurance Act that entered into force in 1984 stipulated the decentralized execution of the insurance scheme, the administrative structure could be kept relatively small. The Department of Unemployment Insurance has formed part of the Directorate of Labor within SECO since 1999, which is also responsible for regulating working conditions. Of the 103 women and 161 men who are currently (2013) employed by the directorate, 171 work in the labor market/unemployment insurance department.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Webseite des Staatssekretariats für Wirtschaft: www.seco.admin.ch.