Laying the Foundation for the AHV

In 1925, the electorate approved a constitutional article that enabled the Confederation to prepare an old age and survivors’ insurance (AHV). The bill represented a precarious compromise rather than an extensive breakthrough. The constitutional article particularly left plenty of leeway with respect to the tricky matter of funding.

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On 6th December 1925, voters were called to the polling stations to decide on the AHV for the first time. Two thirds of voting men and 16½ cantons supported the constitutional basis for the introduction of compulsory AHV. The Confederation was also given the authority to introduce disability insurance at a later date. Following the Health and Accident Insurance Act of 1912 and the framework legislation on unemployment insurance in 1924, this represented the next step towards achieving social security that was no longer founded on welfare, but rather the individual legal entitlements of people insured.

Following the model of social insurance set by Bismarck, left-leaning circles within the bourgeoisie and sections of the workers’ movement had called for the introduction of old age, survivors’ and disability insurance (AHIV) already in the 1880s. They had done so, for instance, during the debate on the constitutional basis for the subsequent Health and Accident Insurance Act (KUVG). AHIV figured prominently on the parliamentary agenda in 1912, but discourse on the matter was delayed by the outbreak of war. By 1918, the basic principle behind the AHIV was uncontested. Even the bourgeois parties professed to an interest in the welfare state. They also hoped concessions to the left wing would alleviate tension after the National General Strike. The Federal Council presented its first draft AHIV bill in 1919.

However, the drive for social policy reform did not last. In view of the post-war crisis, strengthening bourgeois interests called the funding model proposed by the Federal Council into question. Particular controversy surrounded the question of whether direct taxes should be increased to fund the AHIV – as envisaged in the draft initiative of 24th May 1925 by FDP National Councillor Christian Rothenberger. In an effort to prevent the project from being defeated, the Federal Council proposed – under the leadership of Edmund Schulthess – to forego disability insurance and purge the bill of controversial aspects. Parliament agreed to this compromise, though it intended to pursue disability insurance at a later date. The new Article 34quater stipulated few binding commitments with regard to funding, benefits or the organization of the new insurance scheme (now dubbed AHV). These matters would require further legislative clarification.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Leimgruber Matthieu (2008), Solidarity without the state? Business and the shaping of the Swiss welfare state, 1890–2000, Cambridge; Pellegrini Luca (2006), L’assurance vieillesse, survivants et invalidité : ses enjeux finanicer entre 1918 et 1925, Studien und Quellen, 31, 79–107; Lasserre André (1972), L'institution de l'assurance-vieillesse et survivants (1889–1947), in R. Ruffieux (ed.), La démocratie référendaire suisse au 20ème siècle, 259–326, Fribourg.