Paternity leave set to win endorsement at ballot box

Pollsters say fathers (and mothers) in Switzerland have reason to hope that a ten-day statutory paternity leave will become reality soon. Keystone/Hans Klaus Techt

A ten-day statutory leave for fathers of new-born children in Switzerland is within reach according to pollsters. Voters have the final say on the issue on September 27.

This content was published on August 20, 2020

A majority of citizens also appear to favour a plan to introduce tax deductions for families with children. Similarly, amendments to the country’s hunting law – triggered by concerns about the growing wolf population – currently sees supporters clearly ahead of opponents.

All three reforms were passed by parliament in September last year, but different groups challenged the respective decisions to a nationwide vote by collecting the necessary signatures for a so-called referendum.

The survey of voting intentions, commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, was carried out by the leading GfS Bern research institute seven weeks before voting day.

For details see chart below.

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The high approval rate for paternity leave does not surprise political scientist Martina Mousson, project leader at the polling institute.

“It’s a compromise proposal, which is quite common in Swiss politics. And there is widespread support from most parties,” Mousson says.

She says there is broad consensus in society that the time is right to introduce statutory paternity leave.

Switzerland is lagging behind other European countries when it comes to paternity leave. It took until 2005 to establish a 14-week paid leave for working mothers.

Tax breaks and biodiversity

Another family-related issue on the ballot sheet on September 27 appears to be popular among citizens. A relatively small majority of respondents in the poll said they would endorse an increase in tax breaks for families with children, including deductions for childcare in creches.

Pollsters found that older people, low income earners and people critical of the government are leaning towards a No-vote as recommended by left-wing parties.

“There seems to be still some leeway for campaigners in the next few weeks to change the course by rejecting parliament’s decision to introduce family tax breaks,” says political scientist Mousson. “But this would be an exception to the rule in referendums.”

The survey of polling intentions found supporters of a hunting law reform holding an 18-percentage point lead over their opponents.

However, may of the respondents said they had not yet made up their minds, according to political scientist and GfS Bern co-director Lukas Golder.

He says opponents – mainly environmentalists and the political left – had not been able so far to emotionalise the debate. He lamented the lack of a well-founded debate on biodiversity.

“The reform is overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic and the other issues on the ballot sheet,” he says. “The government and parliament hold an advantage over opponents of their decisions in times of crises in a country like Switzerland where the authorities enjoy high credibility.”

The first part of the survey - covering the anti-immigration initiative and the referendum against a multi-billion financial package for new fighter jets – was published on Thursday.

The second opinion poll by the GfS Bern institute is expected for the middle of September.

Polling details

Pollsters interviewed 29,540 Swiss citizens from all language regions across the country for the first of two nationwide surveys.

The survey is based on online responses as well as telephone interviews, both with fixed line and mobile phone users, and was carried out from August 3-17.

The margin of error is 2.9%.

The poll was commissioned by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC),’s parent company, and carried out by the GfS Bern research institute.

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