In an effort to boost the local birthrate, the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland is introducing a CHF3,000 ($3,032) bonus for having a child.
Starting in 2019, canton Ticino in southern Switzerland will offer the premium to parents of newborn or newly-adopted children. To be eligible, the family can’t earn more than CHF110,000 per year.
“Having children should be a joy, not a burden,” says Paolo Beltraminelli, the director of Ticino’s health and welfare departmentexternal link.
With more deaths (3,230) than births (2,774) in 2017, Ticino also had the lowest birthrate among the 26 Swiss cantons: 7.8 births per 1,000 residents. In comparison, the rate was 11.6 in Appenzell Inner Rhodes, followed closely by cantons Zurich (11.4) and Geneva (11.1), as reported by the Swiss statistics officeexternal link.
“Recent projections show that in 2040, one third of the population will be retired. It is crucial to maintain a certain equilibrium throughout the generations,” Beltraminelli told swissinfo.ch. “There is also a strong need to bring families back to the centre of politics.”
Ticino joins nine other Swiss cantons that already offer a bonus for people who have children. In central Swiss Lucerne, Schwyz and Uri – as well as in mainly French-speaking Fribourg, Jura and Neuchâtel – parents get CHF1,000-CHF1,500. The rate is up to CHF3,000 in Geneva, Valais and Vaud.
“For the development of the child, it is essential for today’s families to have some sort of flexibility, for instance through part-time jobs, flexible work hours or additional parental leave – even if unpaid,” said Beltraminelli, adding that the parental allowance given from January 1, 2019, will “allow families to cope with the income loss that they might potentially face during the first year of a child’s life”.
No sustainable effect
However, most cantons don’t find it necessary to provide families with the one-time bonus per child. In Bern, for example, the cantonal government voted down a 2001 proposal to introduce the premiums – with 75 against, 61 for, and eight lawmakers abstaining.
The arguments against birth bonuses remain valid today, as Gundekar Giebel of Bern’s health and welfare officeexternal link told swissinfo.ch.
“A one-off payment is unsuitable for sustainably improving the financial situation of a family. In addition, when paying birth premiums, the economic situation of the parents usually isn’t taken into account, so that even financially well-off families receive additional state funding. The measure thus causes costs without a targeted and sustainable effect,” Giebel said, explaining why birth bonuses are not on the agenda of canton Bern’s family policy strategy.
To help with family-related expenses, federal law requires employers to provide at least CHF200 per month for children under 16, and CHF250 per month for 16-25-year-old students and trainees – unless the children themselves are earning over CHF28,200 a year. Some cantons are more generous; Valais, for example, doles out up to CHF375 and CHF525, respectively.