Child poverty in Switzerland: the Confederation's responsibility
Around 250,000 parents and children in Switzerland live in poverty. These families lack healthy meals, clothing adapted to the season and they suffer from dangerous living conditions. What is particularly problematic is that children and youths from poor families have little hope to escape poverty. This contradicts Article 6 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which entitles every child to as much help as possible for survival and development. Switzerland would be compelled by the Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide all necessary resources for impoverished youths. Two parliamentary motions in the National Council will result in the Federal Parliament working towards this goal.
Political pressure for national measures
In 2015, Caritas Switzerland told cantons and the Confederation that they have increased their efforts to fight family poverty over the past five years. But few cantons take the problem seriously enough. The Confederation repeatedly says that poverty politics is the responsibility of the cantons. Now the national councillor for the Social Democratic Party, Yvonne Feri, is calling for measures to be taken by the Confederation to improve the situation of children affected by poverty all across Switzerland.
Ms Feri introduced a motion in Federal Parliament for child benefits based on need. These benefits are aimed at purposefully supporting disadvantaged families. Ms Feri is championing an idea raised by the Confederation itself in its report “Familienpolitik – Auslegeordnung und Handlungsoptionen des Bundes” published in 2015.
Long-term effects on children
With her second motion, Ms Feri is calling for a study on the long-term effects of social welfare on children that will analyse why children from poverty-stricken families are likely to end up in a cross-generational poverty spiral. Both national and international studies have shown that many children from such families are likely to end up living in poverty themselves as adults and to be dependent on social welfare later in life. The Confederation’s National Programme against Poverty also confirms the correlation between poverty and an indiviudal’s limited prospectives with regard to training opportunities. Due to the high costs for university courses in applied sciences and for further education, members of poor families are frequently excluded.
Federal Council rejects both motions
On 25 November 2015, the Federal Council rejected both motions by Yvonne Feri. The motion for child benefits based on need was rejected because at 300–600 million CHF, the measures were considered too expensive.
- Sozialhilfe. Studie über die Langzeitauswirkungen auf Kinder
Documentation of the postulate 15.3940 on the parliamentary services website (in German)
- Kinderzulagen bedarfsabhängig ergänzen
Documentation of the postulate 15.3939 on the parliamentary services website (in German)
- Nachgefragt: Yvonne Feri über Kinderarmut
Interview by Hälfte/Moitié with Social Democratic Party National Councillor Yvette Feri on child poverty (in German)
- Nationales Programm gegen Armut (National Programme against Poverty)
Website of the programme operated by the Confederation, cantons, towns and communities, as well as civil society organisations, running until 2018 (in German)
- Familienpolitik Auslegeordnung und Handlungsoptionen des Bundes.
Report by the Federal Council, 20 May 2015, regarding the postulate Tornare (13.3135) “family policy” (in German)
- Familienarmut gezielt verhindern
Media release by Caritas Switzerland, 20 October 2015, including link to the position paper “Wohin steuert die Schweiz in der Armutspolitik” (in German)
- Armut in der Schweiz und ihre Relevanz für die Kinderrechte
Article by Jean Zermatten for the Swiss Centre of Expertise in Human Rights (SCHR), 31 October 2012 (in German)