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Jobless to face higher hurdles

Parliament has approved a reform of the state-run unemployment insurance scheme but the centre-left and trade unions have pledged to challenge it in a nationwide vote.

Daily allowances would be reduced and waiting periods for eligibility extended, according to the amended law. Those under 25 years of age would also be required to accept any job offer, while those over 55 qualify for the maximum number of daily allowances only if they have paid contributions for a minimum of 22 months instead of the current 18 months.

The amended law also raises the regular contributions by employers and employees to the insurance scheme by 0.1 per cent of the salaries each.

The Senate on Monday ironed out the last differences with the other parliamentary chamber, the House of Representatives.

Both chambers finally agreed to water down initial proposals by the centre-right and rightwing which went even beyond the government’s plans.

The government and supporters of the reform argue stricter measures are crucial to contain rising debts of the insurance scheme. In 2009 they totaled about Fr5.6 billion ($5.3 billion) according to the economics ministry.

The official unemployment rate stood at 4.4 per cent in February – above the ten year average of 3.0 per cent.

However the centre-left Social Democrats and trade unions have announced they will force a referendum on the issue and now have 90 days to collect the necessary 50,000 signatures for a vote.

The centre-left has vowed to oppose any attempt to undermine the country’s social security system. Earlier this month voters rejected a proposal by the government and parliament to cut occupational pension benefits.

Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch


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