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House approves uniform child benefit system

Parliamentarians say there should be a set national minimum for child benefit Keystone

The House of Representatives has voted in favour of plans to grant parents a minimum of SFr200 ($173) a month per child.

Tuesday’s vote in favour of a harmonised structure marks the first step towards ending an arbitrary system whereby child benefit is higher in some cantons than others.

Parliamentarians voted narrowly – by 95 to 93 – in favour of plans to set a nationwide minimum child allowance. The proposal now has to go before the Senate for approval.

Under the new system, parents of children under the age of 16 would receive SFr200 a month, while parents of those in vocational training up to the age of 25 would be entitled to an allowance of SFr250.

It would be up to the individual cantons to decide whether they wanted to top this up or not.

All 26 cantons pay out child benefit, but the sum differs widely from canton to canton.

Parents in Vaud receive SFr150 ($129) per child per month, while at the other end of the scale, canton Valais pays out SFr260. The monthly average works out at SFr160–190.

Defeat for Right

The vote meant a defeat for the government and the Right, which wanted the cantons to have the power to set the amount of child benefit, without being bound by a national minimum.

The government feared a uniform system would cost more and encourage some cantons to pay no more than they have to.

The rightwing Swiss People’s Party and the centre-right Radicals had proposed a minimum figure of SFr150 a month for children and SFr175 for students. Both figures are less than the current national average of SFr184.

The Left also argued in vain in favour of the “Yes to a Fair Child Allowance” initiative launched two years ago by Travail Suisse, one of Switzerland’s largest employee unions. This calls for monthly payments of at least SFr450 per child.

swissinfo with agencies

Only parents in employment receive child benefit in Switzerland.
The unemployed and self-employed are not included in the scheme.
Around 300,000 children miss out on payments because of this.
The amount paid out varies from canton to canton.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR