A dedicated Office for Social Security

With the formation of the Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV) in 1913, the Confederation had its first agency predominantly dedicated to social security. The BSV performs a number of different supervisory functions. Its primary aim, however, is to prepare and coordinate the further development of the welfare state.

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On 19th December 1912, Parliament approved the formation of the Federal Social Insurance Office (BSV) – the first federal agency to be designated as a federal office. It was assigned to the Department for Trade, Industry and Agriculture (now known as the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education and Research) and was initially accommodated in the building of the Swiss National Bank in Bern. Its tasks included the execution of the Health and Accident Insurance Act (KUVG), in particular the supervision of Suva, and the recognition and subsidization of health insurance funds. In addition, the office was responsible for further preparations regarding social insurance and for international agreements. It was appointed with six regular positions: a director, an assistant, an expert, a mathematician and two clerks.

The new administrative unit constituted an institutional outcome of the referendum on 4th February 1912 with which the KUVG was passed. From the very beginning, the Federal Council intended to ensure the new office had access to the necessary actuarial expertise and was directed by ‘qualified insurance experts’. First it was supposed to merge the new office with the Swiss Insurance Office (known today as the Federal Office of Private Insurance) responsible for monitoring private insurance companies since 1886, an idea that was soon discarded. Following a rejection from the insurance office director and mathematician, Christian Moser, the decision was eventually reached that insurance lawyer, Hermann Rüfenacht, would occupy the position of director.

Another reason for the creation of a new office was the fact that old age and disability insurance still figured on the political agenda. The ‘insurance problems’ were by no means solved with the introduction of the KUVG. The Federal Council held the view that, in future, the state would have to be in a position to carry out and justify the ‘objectively necessary development of its legislature’ and recognize the ‘economic consequences’: “Only then may government bodies defend workable measures with energy and authority, and also be able to confront excessive demands beyond our powers with objective reasons.”

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Bundesamt für Sozialversicherungen (1988), Geschichte, Aufgaben und Organisation des Bundesamtes fürs Sozialversicherung (Sonderdruck aus der Zeitschrift für die Ausgleichskassen, 1988, Nr. 7–9), Bern; Botschaft des Bundesrates an die Bundesversammlung betreffend die Errichtung eines Bundesamtes für soziale Versicherung, 29. Oktober 1912, Bundesblatt, 1912 IV, 501–526.