Switzerland moves to increase the minimum family allowance

Switzerland moves to increase the minimum family allowance

A commission of the National Council has voted to increase the minimum family allowance in Switzerland. If passed by parliament, a majority of families with dependent children would see payments increase by up to 50 francs a month per child.

Commission votes to raise Swiss family allowance

In a vote on February 23, the Commission for Social Security and Health in the National Council approved a plan to increase the minimum family allowance. Currently, Swiss cantons pay a monthly allowance of at least 200 francs per child to parents with children up to 16 years old, or up to 20 years old if the child does not work or study due to health conditions. 

For people aged 16 to 25 who are still dependent - they do not have a job or income and are studying at a university or other institute for higher education - parents receive at least 250 francs a month per child. However, each canton is free to choose whether to offer families a higher subsidy, though few do. 

The benefit is not automatically paid out and must be applied for. For employees, the subsidy is applied for through their employer, who will then add the allowance to their salary. Self-employed people have to set up their own family allowance compensation fund, while unemployed people have to apply for the allowance alongside their unemployment benefits or welfare.

Increased allowance would help families in need, say supporters

As part of the new initiative, submitted by Evangelical People’s Party National Councillor Marc Jost, lawmakers hope to raise the zero to 16 family allowance to at least 250 francs per child per month. Currently, only nine cantons in Switzerland (Basel-Stadt, Geneva, Fribourg, Jura, Vaud, Valais and Zug, and Lucerne and Neuchâtel between the ages of 12 and 16) have a family allowance of 250 francs or higher, meaning a vast majority of parents would receive more in benefits.

In a statement given to Watson, the commission stated that the increase would help families that are struggling to make ends meet and reduce the risk of children falling into poverty. According to the latest data from the Federal Statistical Office, in 2021 8,7 percent of those under 17 in Switzerland were living in poverty. 

The commission added that it would also compensate lower to middle-income families who have borne the brunt of the recent rise in the cost of living, such as higher prices for rental properties and the rise in the cost of health insurance.

Opponents worry about how to finance a higher family allowance

However, the plan faced stiff resistance at the commission, with members approving the proposal by just 13 votes to 12. While officials did not state what opponents’ main objections were, a plan to raise the minimum allowance by 100 francs a month was rejected as “the associated additional costs could, in the eyes [of the commission], hardly be financed.”

The proposal will now be sent to the same commission in the Council of States, who will then pass it onto parliament to be voted on. However, it must be noted that with the proposal passing by such a knife edge, it may take compromise to push the plan through. If it does pass, it will then be up to Swiss cantons to implement the changes nationwide.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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