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Fewer people qualify for disability benefits

The equivalent of over 25,000 full disability pensions was granted last year Keystone

Tougher requirements and improved procedures have led to a fall of six per cent in the number of new applicants being granted invalidity benefits.

This content was published on February 15, 2005 - 15:41

But the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO) said on Tuesday that the share of the working population receiving a disability allowance had continued to increase.

Figures for 2004 show that 5.4 per cent of the working population receives some kind of benefit, up from 5.2 per cent the previous year.

Social insurance services answered 51,000 claims last year, and granted the equivalent of 25,500 full pensions, down from 27,100 in 2003.

There was a decrease in the number of first-time claims – 82,000 against 86,000 a year before – and a rising number of refusals, with nearly four out of ten requests rejected.

More pensioners

The FSIO attributes the drop in approved claims to improved checks and rehabilitation procedures introduced after the last revision of Switzerland’s invalidity insurance legislation.

Officials said that better cooperation with unemployment and social services also helped keep figures down.

There were 283,000 people receiving disability benefits at the end of last year, up three per cent.

This increase was due to the fact that the number of requests granted was higher than the number of people who had stopped receiving invalidity pensions, such as those moving on to retirement benefits.

The drop in new claims comes as the interior ministry is preparing its latest revision of Switzerland’s invalidity insurance laws.

In the red

Each year, the scheme is SFr1.5 billion ($1.26 billion) in the red, and its total debt could reach SFr10 billion by next year. The authorities fear it could be insolvent by 2011.

The government has proposed putting a further SFr2.4 billion into the benefits’ fund by increasing value-added tax by 0.8 per cent or by deducting the same amount from salaries.

The interior ministry is under political pressure to solve the scheme’s problems.

The rightwing People’s Party has attacked the system, claiming it is exploited by cheats making bogus claims. It has also pointed out that a large number of claimants live abroad.

Parliament is expected to debate the latest revision of the invalidity insurance scheme this year, although any changes would only be introduced by July 2006 at the earliest.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

There were 283,000 people receiving disability benefits at the end of 2004.
This represents 5.4% of the working population.
The number of new benefit recipients dropped by 6% last year.
One in five men will receive an invalidity benefit before retiring.
One third of all benefits paid out relate to mental health claims, and last year 40% of all new recipients belonged to this category.

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In brief

In 2003, the invalidity insurance scheme cost SFr10.7 billion, while income was only SFr9.2 billion.

The federal government and the cantons contribute half of the income, with the rest coming from workers' salaries.

The scheme paid out SFr6.8 billion in cash to recipients in 2003 and spent SFr1.6 billion on rehabilitation and SFr1.9 billion on community-based projects.

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