Social security – SWI

© Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Switzerland has a social insurance network that covers risks in many areas: work, health, family, old age.

This content was published on March 20, 2022 – 18:01

The Swiss welfare state is difficult to compare with other countries because it includes many insurance schemes with widely differing mechanisms. Its funding is characterized by a smaller use of tax revenue, significant individual foresight and influence from private institutions.

In addition, federalism and direct democracy govern social policy, which slows down the implementation of certain aids, but at times accelerates the process. Disability insurance, for example, was introduced in 1960 after the submission of several initiatives requiring such a tool, while maternity leave was only introduced in 2005 after being rejected by the people.

In international comparison, social expenditure in Switzerland as a percentage of GDP occupies an intermediate position close to the EU average.

Pension benefit

The Swiss pension system is based on three “pillars”: compulsory state pensions (old-age and survivors’ insurance, ACP), occupational pensions (LPP) and individual pensions.

The size of the pension depends on the contribution years and the income. It must ensure a subsistence minimum. If this is not the case, the needy pensioner can apply for additional state-subsidized benefits.

Disability insurance (AI)

Disability insurance is mandatory. It is financed by contributions from employees and employers as well as by the Association through various taxes.

The AI ​​intervenes when a person is unable to perform a lucrative activity or can only do so in part due to an attack on his physical or mental health. The insurance finances rehabilitation measures to enable reintegration into the labor market as well as full or partial pension.

Compensation for loss of earnings (APG)

This insurance is compulsory and financed by contributions from employees and employers. APGs compensate for loss of income during military service, civilian service, civil protection, maternity and paternity.

Since 2005, women have been entitled to 14 weeks’ leave after the birth of their child, paid at 80% of their salary. Since 2021, men have been entitled to 2 weeks’ leave after the birth of their child, paid with 80% of their salary.

Parents who have to interrupt or reduce their work activity to care for a child with serious health problems are also entitled to 14 weeks’ leave since 2021, paid with 80% of their salary.

unemployment insurance

All employees in Switzerland who have not yet reached retirement age are compulsorily insured against unemployment. Contributions are paid by the employees and the employer.

To be entitled to unemployment benefits, the following conditions must be met:

– Has worked for at least 12 months within the last two years prior to unemployment
– Be resident in Switzerland
– Has a work permit
– Register with a regional placement office (ORP)
– Take personal steps to find a new job

Unemployment benefits amount to 70% (80% with dependent children) of the average salary earned during the last six to twelve months of work. Benefits are generally paid for two years, but there are many exceptions.

Unemployed persons who cease their entitlement from the age of 60 may receive transitional benefits to ensure them a decent standard of living until their retirement.

Health insurance

Basic health insurance (LAMAL) is compulsory for all persons residing in Switzerland. It is funded directly by the residents, who pay a fixed monthly premium to a private insurance company. If the cost of insurance is too high, it is possible to apply for help from the canton of residence (subsidy).

LAMAL covers most health problems ranging from birth to doctor visits and serious illnesses. Most prescription drugs are covered.

Accident insurance

Employees are automatically insured by their employer against accidents and occupational diseases. If they work more than 8 hours a week with the same employer, they are also insured against non-work accidents.

Housewives, housewives, children, students and pensioners must insure themselves against accidents with their basic health insurance. Self-employed people are not obliged to insure themselves against accidents.

Family benefits

The function of child support can vary from one canton to another. These aids are generally funded by employers, the self-employed and the cantons.

The purpose of child allowance is to partially offset the cost of caring for one or more children. Active people can apply for financial aid for each of their children up to their 16th birthday. They can then receive a supplement for each of their children in education up to their 25th birthday.

Some cantons have also introduced maternity or adoption benefits.


People in financial difficulties whose social security benefits are inadequate, who have not been able to benefit from them or who are no longer entitled to them can apply for social assistance. This aims to guarantee a vital minimum for everyone.

Social assistance is generally financed by municipal and cantonal taxes. It is regulated by the cantons and most of the time implemented by the municipalities, its operation and the size of the support can therefore vary greatly depending on the place of residence.

People in need of financial support should contact their regional social services. The assistance is provided on a case-by-case basis depending on the situation and needs. Assistance benefits are often paid to the elderly whose pension is too low, to single parents, but also to the unemployed when their entitlement ceases, to people with large debts or to workers whose wages are not sufficient to support them. Chores.

Almost 10% of the population living in Switzerland benefit from some form of social assistance in the broadest sense: supplementary benefits for old-age insurance, benefits for families, housing benefits, advances on maintenance or general financial support for daily living.

System error

Despite the help put in place in Switzerland, many people slip through the cracks and find themselves in a very precarious situation. About a third of social beneficiaries give up asking for help.

Several studies show that the system is complex and that many are unaware of their rights. It is sometimes difficult to obtain information and competent services are not always available. Many people feel guilty and fear stigma when applying for state aid. In addition, some cantons stipulate that part of the aid granted must be repaid when the individual situation improves.

Foreigners risk having their residence permit revoked if they use social benefits. And people who are illegal or in an irregular situation do not want to take the risk of being arrested or even deported by the authorities.

So many elements that cause uncertainty to rise in Switzerland: In 2020, 8.5% of the population was affected by poverty despite social security interventions.

In accordance with JTI standards

In accordance with JTI standards

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