The concept of the family is gaining popularity amongst politicians on the left and right of the spectrum, as well as in the business world.This content was published on May 15, 2003 - 09:13
The trend is noticeable as the United Nations pays tribute to the traditional social unit on the occasion of International Family Day.
"Not so long ago, economic circles and the more conservative sections of society wouldn't have hesitated to advise people to think hard before having a family," said Jürg Krummenacher, president of the federal commission for the family.
"In other words, those who did not have the means to support a family would be advised not attempt to start one," he added.
But times have changed.
According to Krummenacher, the family has never enjoyed more support.
The most ardent defenders of the family, the Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats have joined forces to advance the cause of the family at the parliamentary level.
The two parties are demanding tax cuts that would benefit the family. They are also asking for a standardisation of family allowances at the federal level, with a minimum payment of SFr200 per child.
Despite the growing awareness of the need to support the family, there is little agreement on the methods of achieving this, nor on how to finance these schemes.
Mobilisation of workers
The programme to create additional childcare places, voted by parliament last year, owes its success to the world of business.
Democrats and socialists were able to convince Peter Hasler, the director of the Employers' Union, that the economy stood to gain if mothers were enabled to return to work.
Maternity benefits could also become a reality, thanks to employers.
A new maternity insurance bill would ensure that working mothers receive 80 per cent of their salary during a 14-week maternity break.
Who pays what
"I do not see why we have to pay women to stay at home," said Pierre Triponez, director of the Union of Arts and Trades. "The economy is not responsible for the family."
"On the other hand, in a world where women are playing a greater role in working life, it's clear that the economy must get involved in family politics," Triponez commented.
Employers do not want to empty tills, but to support the family they are giving their backing to the principle of tax deductions, rather than direct aid.
A proposal is already under discussion at the government level.
"Family policy organisations are discussing a salary contribution to fund a federal family allowance," said Anouk Friedmann, secretary of the federal commission for the family.
"It must still define the participation of employers and employees. That's a political decision," she added.
"It's true that the world of business could be considered an important partner in the development of the family in Switzerland," Friedmann continued.
"But it has to be said, there is disagreement as to the level of support that should be given to the family."
The battle for a new family policy in Switzerland is far from being won.
The subject is bound be discussed for years to come, as pressure increases for public intervention in family matters.
swissinfo, Vanda Janka and Hansjörg Bolliger (translation: Samantha Tonkin)
In 1960, 50 per cent of households were families with children. Now it is around 30 per cent.
More than 70 per cent of women with children over the age of ten currently work.
Before the birth of their second child, 60 per cent of women work full time and ten per cent part time.
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