Social security systems are the result of human action. They are evidence of the commitment of individual men and women, the influence of political groups and organised interests, as well as conflicts and compromises. This section presents the people and groups that contributed significantly to the development of social security in Switzerland. It also contains several group portraits of beneficiaries. They reflect the impact of the welfare state on the day-to-day lives of people in Switzerland.

At the end of the 19th century, internationally connected social reformers campaigned for greater social security among the lower classes. They addressed issues of hygiene and occupational health and safety and introduced new methods of providingrelief for the poor. In the course of the 20thcentury, the specialized staff of the Federal Social Insurance Office, as well as persons working in the individual social insurance branches, increased their influence in comparison to social reformers who were active in civil society. 

Various organizations and associations significantly influenced the development of social security. Trade unions promoted the idea of mutualism and solidarity between workers and initially favored self-governing aid association, but over the course of the 20thcentury, trade unions increasingly favored governmental social welfare institutions. By contrast, employer associations at first opposed emerging state-led social insurance. This opposition became less important with time, though employers did not lose sight of their own interests in the process. As ‘social partners’, employer associations and trade unions negotiated collective agreements and were consulted by the state on sociopolitical issues.

Historically speaking, political parties have also held differing attitudes about the welfare state. The liberal FDP was instrumental in constructing the welfare state but has become more critical of it in recent years. The catholic CVP was initially critical of governmental social insurance but became more accepting of in the latter part of the 20th century. The socialist SP, also initially skeptical towards social insurance, later became a key promoter of the welfare state. More recently, the populist SVP has become one of the most outspoken critics of state social institutions and proposals.