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Fight over child allowance set for a new round

Parliament approved a controversial standard child allowance Keystone

The business community says it will challenge a new law aimed at introducing a standard child allowance across the country.

This content was published on March 24, 2006 - 17:18

The announcement is the latest step in a 20-year tug-of-war in parliament for more family-friendly policies.

Currently the country's 26 cantonal authorities pay out child benefit, but the sum differs widely from region to region.

The director of the Association of Small and Medium-sized Businesses said on Friday his organisation and employers groups would force a nationwide ballot on parliament's decision to set a monthly minimum benefit of SFr200 ($151.8).

Pierre Triponez, who also represents the centre-right Radical Party in parliament, said it was unfair to impose such a decision on the cantons.

In a similar vein, the rightwing Swiss People's Party said it was irresponsible to institutionalise additional spending at a time when the government was trying to reduce federal debts.

They have three months to collect at least 50,000 signatures to try to force a nationwide vote on the issue.

Confident

The other main political parties, notably the centre-left Social Democrats, the Greens and the centre-right Christian Democrats say they are confident of convincing voters of the benefits of a uniform child allowance.

They said the campaign in the run-up to any vote would be a great platform to explain that child allowance is an investment into the future of the country.

Critics say the current policy is discriminatory and not family-friendly. Statistics show that more than 300,000 children in Switzerland miss out on child payments, mostly because their parents are not working or are self-employed.

A group of trade unions, Travail Suisse, has already handed in the necessary number of signatures for an initiative that calls for the introduction of a minimum monthly child allowance of SFr450 across the country.

"We will discuss the situation in the next few weeks and decide on our strategy," Martin Flügel of Travail Suisse told swissinfo.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Parliament approved the payment of a uniform monthly minimum SFr200 child benefit and SFr250 for children at school. The Swiss business community and the political right have challenged the decision.

The scheme would be funded mainly through contributions by employers and cost SFr700 million annually.

The Travail Suisse trade union umbrella organisation calls for a standard monthly allowance of SFr450 with a people's initiative launched in 2003.

Currently the payment of child benefits differs widely from canton to canton. It ranges from SFr150 to nearly SFr290 per month.

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