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Tackling long-term unemployment

Are some people ill because they are unemployed, or unemployed because they are ill? Keystone

A project has been launched aimed at re-integrating people into the job market by boosting cooperation between welfare authorities.

This content was published on September 4, 2006 - 19:07

The two-year trial comes as parliament is tightening regulations in an effort to cut the number of claims for invalidity benefits.

The programme is specifically designed to assist people who can't find employment for a complex set of reasons.

"It's often very difficult in such cases to assign a person to one particular welfare authority," said Alard du Bois-Reymond of the Federal Social Security Office on Monday.

He added the programme would benefit several hundred people in Switzerland who were often moved from one office to the next while the difficulties for those concerned were getting worse. In many cases it is impossible to say whether a person was unable to find a job because of an illness, or whether unemployment caused the illness, according to experts.

The project involves the federal unemployment and invalidity insurances as well as cantonal welfare services.

The idea is to reverse the current procedure and do a case assessment and jointly draft a plan for re-integration before assigning the person to one of the institutions.

Reforms

Du Bois-Reyond said the new approach would hopefully lead to a more humane treatment of jobless people and a reduction in costs.

The pilot project comes as parliament is due to wrap up debate during the forthcoming autumn session on a reform of the invalidity pension scheme which has run up debts of SFr7.8 billion ($6.3 billion).

A previous attempt to put a halt to spiralling costs was blocked in 2004 when voters threw out a government plan to increase value added tax in a bid to raise revenue for the old age and invalidity scheme.

A report published last May showed that about 220,000 people – mainly foreigners, single parents and youths – depend on welfare payments. The interior ministry, which had commissioned the report, said the figure discounted allegations of widespread bogus claims for social assistance.

In a related move the city of Zurich last year launched a controversial programme to get long-term unemployed back to work by creating low-paid jobs.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The social security system includes old age, invalidity and unemployment benefits as well as welfare payments. Health insurance coverage is mandatory.

Income support is the responsibility of the cantons and local authorities. The overall cost is around SFr3 billion a year.

In 2004 about 220,000 people received welfare benefits, the equivalent of 3% of the Swiss population.

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Key facts

There were 283,000 people - 5.4% per cent of the population -receiving disability benefit at the end of 2004.
One third of all benefits paid out relates to mental health claims.
The invalidity scheme posted a SFr1.7 billion deficit last year amid concerns it could run out of funds by 2011.
The unemployment rate stands at 3.1%.

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