Family Policy as Part of Social Security

Family allowances were nothing new. However, they varied in amount depending on the canton and employment branch. This lack of coordination continued for a long time. It was only the Family Allowance Act of 2006 that brought standardization. Minimum allowances per child were now set.

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On 24th March 2006, Parliament passed a Family Allowance Act. Since it entered into force in 2009, all employed as well as unemployed people with children have been entitled to a family allowance. The minimum levels of existing allowances were also standardized. The self-employed became eligible in 2013, thereby fulfilling the principle of ‘one child – one allowance’. The family allowance amounts to at least 200 francs per child per month until they reach the age of 20 or 250 francs if the child is participating in a training/education programme. The Family Allowance Act is organized analogous to the family compensation funds. Funding is provided by the cantons, which collect employer contributions for this purpose.

Just like in the case of the maternity insurance introduced in 2004, the Family Allowance Act is based on a provision that was enshrined in the federal constitution in 1945. A federal law on family allowances, however, was only introduced for agriculture at that time. By paying family allowances to agricultural workers and farmers, politicians in 1952 hoped to reduce rural migration to the cities. By the turn of the century, however, all cantons had introduced family allowances that, on average, amounted to 184 francs per child in 2004. In 2004, there were 115 public and private family compensation funds. Plans were therefore drafted at federal level to harmonies cantonal allowances in the early 1990s. These plans did not gain traction until the trade union Travail.Suisse launched a popular initiative for fair child allowances in 2003. It proposed a substantial increase in allowances to 450 francs but was withdrawn in favor of the official counter project.

As was the case with the future Family Allowance Act, the initiative coincided with increased activism in family policy. Families were increasingly recognized as being at risk of poverty. Many cantons therefore began to provide financial support to families with low incomes. At the same time, the Confederation launched an impulse programme to expand day care in 2003. Since 2000, there have also been discussions about expanding supplementary benefits (EL) to families – a model thus far practiced in only a few cantons.

Literatur / Bibliographie / Bibliografia / References: Année politique Suisse / Schweizerische Politik, 2000–2006; Parlamentarische Initiative Leistungen für die Familie. Zusatzbericht der Kommission für soziale Sicherheit und Gesundheit des Nationalrates, 8. September 2004, Bundesblatt, 2004, 6887–6926.