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Senate rejects uniform child benefit

On your back: children are not cheap

(Keystone)

The Senate has rejected the introduction of a uniform allowance of SFr200 ($160) per child per month. Family support will thus remain under cantonal control.

The speaker of the Senate was called on to cast the deciding vote on a long-standing proposal, which now goes back to the House of Representatives for further debate.

All 26 Swiss cantons pay out child benefit, but the sum differs widely from canton to canton.

Parents in canton Aargau receive SFr150 per child per month, while at the other end of the scale, canton Valais pays out SFr344.

The monthly average works out at SFr184. One in ten Swiss children – roughly 180,000 – receives no benefit.

Several recent initiatives concerned with harmonising the amount of child benefit paid across Switzerland have come to nothing.

The latest proposal, which earmarked a standard SFr200 per child per month, was rejected by the Senate on Wednesday.

Swiss reaction

Anita Fetz, from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, said it was time to harmonise the amount of child benefit paid across Switzerland and that this bill was central to a coherent family policy.

"We need action - not grandiloquent speeches," she said.

However Alex Kuprecht, from the rightwing Swiss People's Party, argued that a fixed allowance of SFr200 would encroach into cantonal autonomy, adding that it would cost the economy hundreds of millions of francs.

Interior Minister Pascal Couchepin, who is in charge of social-security matters, opposed fixing a minimal allowance, saying social policy was a job for the cantons.

Drawing board

Two years ago, Travail Suisse, one of Switzerland's largest employee unions, collected enough signatures from the public to bring the issue of child benefit to public attention.

Under the "yes to a fair child allowance" initiative, it called for a harmonised system, which would pay at least SFr450 per child per month.

In March 2005 the House of Representatives narrowly voted in favour of plans – which the Senate has just rejected – to grant parents a minimum of SFr200 per child per month.

Under those plans, parents of children under the age of 16 would have received SFr200 a month, while parents of those in vocational training up to the age of 25 would have been entitled to an allowance of SFr250.

It would have been up to the individual cantons to decide whether they wanted to top this up or not.

The bill now returns to the House of Representatives.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In March 2005 the House of Representatives narrowly voted in favour of plans to grant parents of children under the age of 16 SFr200 a month.

Parents of those in vocational training up to the age of 25 would have been entitled to an allowance of SFr250.

The idea was to harmonise the amount of child benefit paid across Switzerland – all 26 Swiss cantons pay out child benefit, the sum differs widely from canton to canton.

Parents in canton Aargau receive SFr150 per child per month, while canton Valais pays out SFr344.

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