In the Shadow of war: Change or Stagnation in Social Policy?

Unlike the First World War, the Second World War triggered a drive for developing social security. This impetus was most evident in the introduction of the Income Compensation Insurance for Militia Soldiers (LVEO) and the foundation of the AHV after the war. Overall, however, socio-political change remained both modest and limited.

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At first glance, the Second World War brought about significant innovation in the development of Swiss social security. Between 1938 and 1944, the share of gross domestic product attributed to social expenditures rose from 4.7 to 6.9 percent – a level that would not be reached again until the mid-1950s. In contrast to the situation that had prevailed during the First World War, the Income Compensation Insurance for Militia Soldiers (LVEO) offered income support against war-related income-loss, made a significant contribution towards avoiding social conflict and increasing national solidarity. The EO formed the organizational and financial foundation for the old age and survivors’ insurance (AHV), which represented a breakthrough for the principle of compulsory social insurance when it was introduced in 1947.

Despite these developments, socio-political change remained modest both during and after the Second World War. The social expenditure ratio thus declined after the war and only began to rise again in 1949. Social welfare was only expanded within the frame of the AHV, which meant extremely low pensions and plenty of room for occupational provision managed by employers. For instance, there was still no mandatory health or unemployment insurance. Though the constitutional groundwork for maternity insurance and family allowances was laid in 1945, its introduction was delayed by decades. There was also major continuity with respect to organization: Centralization proceeded sluggishly and key social policy fields remained based on decentralized structures (such as equalization funds and private insurance) or on the principle of voluntarism (health insurance and occupational provision).

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Leimgruber Matthieu, Lengwiler Martin (ed.) (2009), Umbruch an der ‚inneren Front‘. Krieg und Sozialpolitik in der Schweiz 1938–1948, Zürich.