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ZURICH (Reuters) - The Swiss government on Wednesday opposed letting men take subsidised paternity leave from their jobs, saying it would cost too much and hurt companies' competitiveness.

The cabinet was reacting to an initiative under the Swiss system of direct democracy to let new fathers take at least four weeks off. As working women now do, they would get 80 percent of their pay via insurance funded by employers and workers.

The government estimated the scheme -- similar to programmes in many other European countries -- would cost 420 million Swiss francs (324.80 million pounds) a year.

"This would impose an additional burden on the economy and place great organisational challenges on companies. Such leave should continue to be the responsibility of employers and social partners," it said.

The government said its priority was improving child care, which would help working parents with young children.

The paternity leave issue will still come to a national vote after campaigners gathered the necessary 100,000 signatures to force a referendum, the date for which has not yet been set.

(Reporting by Michael Shields Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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