More families falling into poverty

More families are struggling to make ends meet swissinfo C Helmle

Family organisations in Switzerland say Swiss families are increasingly likely to fall into poverty.

This content was published on August 20, 2002 - 20:32

The organisations are calling on the Swiss government to introduce a series of measures, costing SFr720 million annually, to help families.

The call came from the Federal Commission on Family Policy together with leading non governmental organisations such as Pro Familia and Pro Juventute.

President of the Commission Jürg Krummenacher said Swiss families were more likely to fall below the poverty line than other sectors of society.

"Sixty per cent of people living in poverty in Switzerland are in families," Krummenacher told swissinfo. "We have 120,000 children below the poverty line."

Nationwide child benefit

The Commission's main demand is the introduction of a nationwide system of child benefit, with a minimum payment of SFr200 per month per child, rising to SFr250 for young people still in education.

"At the moment we have a different level of child benefit for each different canton," Krummenacher pointed out. "In the canton with the lowest level, child benefit is only 44 per cent of the child benefit in the canton with the highest level."

"We think families deserve more compensation for the financial burdens they bear."

More child care

But the Commission also wants a series of practical measures designed to help families increase their income themselves, for example by making it easier for mothers to work.

"We want much more institutionalised child care," Krummenacher explained. "Switzerland really lags behind other European countries in this field."

"And we need an education policy which is more suited to families," he continued, referring to the practice whereby many Swiss schools still operate irregular timetables, so that children in the same family may be starting and leaving school at different times of the day.

Krummenacher is also hopeful that the introduction of a national system of paid maternity leave - long called for by Swiss women's organisations - may not be too far off.

"The Swiss people have rejected maternity leave several times," he admitted, "but it seems there has been a change of heart, especially among parliamentarians; over a hundred of them have now called for maternity leave."

"The problem is that traditionally the family has been seen as a private affair in Switzerland," Krummenacher continued. "But now we think it's time for the government to commit to a real family policy."

by Imogen Foulkes

Key facts

120,000 children in Switzerland live in poverty.
22 per cent of single parents living in towns and cities are receiving income support.
Child benefit varies greatly from canton to canton.
There is no national system of paid maternity leave in Switzerland.

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