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#SWISSHISTORYPICS Swiss welfare pioneer SUVA turns 100

One hundred years ago, the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA) was established. While the focus used to be occupational accidents and diseases, leisure accidents have become more common. 

In the second half of the 19th century, industrialization led to social problems in Switzerland: poverty was widespread, factory work harsh and dangerous. Those who fell ill or had an accident were not covered. 

In 1900, Swiss voters soundly rejected a bill to provide compulsory accident and health insurance. It was not until 1912 that they agreed to obligatory health insurance. 

In 1918, the Swiss Accident Insurance Fund (SUVA)external link began operations. Companies whose employees were exposed to a significant risk of occupational accidents or disease were required to sign up for SUVA’s insurance. Later, SUVA took on risk prevention and accident rehabilitation. The insurance system maintained a distinction between illnesses and accidents, regardless of the cause of an accident.

Today, SUVA has competition 

In 1984, SUVA lost its monopoly on compulsory accident insurance (with the exception of the industrial and construction sectors). Other insurance companies have since been able to provide insurance against occupational and non-occupational accidents as well as occupational diseases. SUVA is still the largest accident insurer in Switzerland: two-thirds of employees in Switzerland are insured by SUVA. 

SUVA was Switzerland’s first major form of social welfare and today, it’s still an important part of the Swiss social security system. It is organized as an independent company under public law, but receives no public money. Profits are returned to the insured in the form of lower premiums. 

Dangerous hobbies

These days, factory accidents and occupational diseases are no longer the most urgent problems. Today, many Swiss can afford expensive and dangerous hobbies. The increasing frequency of recreational accidents poses major challenges for SUVA. About 60% of accidents happen during people’s free time. SUVA tries to prevent such leisure accidents with awareness campaigns.