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City authorities tackle poverty, long-term unemployment

Nearly 40 Swiss cities have pledged to fight poverty of urban families and boost job re-integration efforts for the long-term unemployed. But the city authorities warn that welfare support may suffer if budgetary reforms are implemented.

This content was published on December 17, 1999 - 16:44

Nearly 40 Swiss cities and towns have pledged to fight poverty of urban families and boost job re-integration efforts for the long-term unemployed. But the city authorities warn that welfare support may suffer if budgetary reforms are implemented.

The anti-poverty measures were announced on Friday by 37 cities, which joined forces to tackle social problems five years ago. At a news conference in the capital Berne, they outlined the lessons learnt and the strategies for the future.

The city authorities agree that the main priority for the next ten years will be to fight poverty and its impact on children and families.

Child benefit should be harmonised and there should be more means testing for benefits, administration officials said. They added that more money must go toward families on low incomes.

The officials said a key strategy must be to keep the financial support at a level that makes working an interesting alternative to receiving benefits.

That strategy should also apply to the long-term unemployed, the experts said, adding that the jobless wanting to go back to work should not be punished by an immediate lowering of local council support.

The 37 cities rang the alarm about draft plans that propose shifting social support – for instance invalidity benefits and other supplementary payments -- away from the federal government to the cantonal authorities.

The welfare experts said that no such shift should occur until the cantons had harmonised their welfare payment criteria and benefit programmes.

From staff and wire reports.

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