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OECD calls on Switzerland to help working parents

Many Swiss couples still have to choose between career and family Keystone

Switzerland must do more for working parents who are juggling careers with the task of bringing up children, according to a report.

This content was published on October 28, 2004 - 16:51

The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says reforms could include improved childcare and changes to the school system.

The most recent national census found that for 60 per cent of Swiss families, both husband and wife were going out to work. But many women said they found it hard to combine a career with the demands of family life.

While part-time jobs – a path chosen by nearly every second woman in Switzerland - are considered a good compromise for reconciling work and children, the OECD noted that this also hindered career progression.

Babies and bosses

Details of the OECD’s "Babies and Bosses" report were presented at a press conference in Bern on Thursday.

Economics Minister Joseph Deiss said there were plenty of reasons for the Swiss to take the report seriously.

He cited the importance of promoting economic growth and equality between men and women, the problem of an ageing population, as well as the issue of families falling into poverty.

“The measures taken so far to help families have been uncoordinated and taken too long to implement,” said Deiss.

But he cautioned that the federal authorities only have a limited influence on family policy, and said many decisions were up to the cantons and municipalities.

Deiss added that one planned improvement was proper national certification of childcare specialists.

Difficult careers

The report found that two out five women with tertiary education were childless by the age of 40, while parents said they were not having as many children as they would like.

The report also points out that many mothers in Switzerland work part-time to make their schedules compatible with school hours, and that a shortage of childcare facilities deters a substantial number of women from working outside the home.

The OECD points the finger at Switzerland’s federal structure, which it says penalises parents because taxation and childcare policies vary from canton to canton.

It recommends a series of measures to help encourage couples to have more children.

The report calls for more public spending on childcare facilities as a way of affording more women the opportunity to work on a full-time basis.

But the OECD adds that employers should take note of demographic trends by offering more flexible working conditions and not penalising those who choose to take part-time work.

Fiscal reform

The report’s authors suggest that reforming the fiscal system would give women more financial incentive to work.

They argue that taxation on an individual basis – a move that has been proposed in Switzerland – would avoid penalising dual-income families and encourage both parents to take employment.

Though the report focuses on how Switzerland could improve its family policy, the OECD does suggest the Swiss authorities have made some progress in recent years.

The organisation welcomed last month’s nationwide vote in favour of paid maternity leave as a positive step towards helping women stay in the labour market.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

In Switzerland:
72 per cent of women work.
85 per cent of men hold jobs.
45 per cent of women work part-time.
75 per cent of women with children have part-time jobs.
In 60 per cent of Swiss families, both partners work.
A child will cost his or her parents between SFr500,000 ($417,000) and SFr1 million from birth until the end of his or her education.

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