Parliament has paved the way for a new, nationwide policy designed to support needy families in Switzerland.
The House of Representatives, meeting in Lugano on Wednesday, approved the proposals, which are aimed at providing additional payments for needy families with small children. They also include more financial support from the government to set up crèches and other child-minding facilities.
The family-friendly social policies are expected to cost around SFr470 million ($280 million) annually.
An estimated 90,000 families in Switzerland, mainly single parents, would benefit from the new measures. A recent survey shows that one in 10 Swiss families live below the official poverty line, with many of them currently dependent on welfare payments.
The House also came out overwhelmingly in favour of federal funds to help create more crèches and other child-minding facilities across the country.
Speakers said that with additional funds from the government, an estimated 12,000 new places at crèches in communes could be created each year. They said the lack of sufficient child-minding facilities had been one of the biggest obstacles for women on the labour market.
It is estimated that 650,000 places are needed in Swiss crèches. However, only about 50,000 are currently available - a figure which puts Switzerland towards the bottom of the list in comparison with other European nations.
Parliament gave the green light to the proposals following several successful pilot projects around the country, including one in Ticino. The government is now expected to draft the necessary legal regulations, which will later be debated by both houses of parliament.
by Urs Geiser