Rightwing attacks soaring invalidity claims

One in seven people claim invalidity benefits in Switzerland Keystone

The number of people claiming invalidity benefit in Switzerland has rocketed by almost 50 per cent over the past decade.

This content was published on September 15, 2003 - 19:33

The figures are providing ammunition for a campaign launched by the rightwing Swiss People’s Party against bogus claimants.

According to statistics released by the Federal Social Insurance Office (SIO) on Monday, 465,000 people received invalidity benefit last year - 145,000 more than in 1992.

During the same period, the SIO calculated that the probability of a Swiss national being granted some form of invalidity benefit had increased by a third, from 5.5 per cent to 7.6 per cent.

“The main reason for invalidity claims is overwhelmingly an illness,” said the SIO in a statement. “In contrast, birth defects and accidents do not account for much of the overall number.”

Illness accounts for around 80 per cent of claims, with one in three claimants suffering from mental illness.

Payments to beneficiaries totalled SFr10 billion ($7.25 billion) in 2002.

The People’s Party, which claims the system is being exploited by benefits cheats, has also drawn attention to the large number of claimants living abroad.

In 2002 some 40,000 non-resident Swiss received invalidity benefit, according to the SIO.

Niche market

Colette Nova from the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions told swissinfo that changes in the employment market had contributed to the latest figures.

“In the 1990s many large firms offered low-profile jobs, such as delivering the internal mail, which could be done by people without specific training and who were perhaps mentally or physically disabled,” she explained.

“But now such jobs are thin on the ground and vacancies are often only in administration, which means that a whole group of people no longer have access to a niche job market,” she added.

The unions have also drawn attention to the fact that the cantons might also have played a part in boosting the number of people claiming invalidity benefit.

The 26 cantons pay 2.5 per cent or SFr1.2 billion to the invalidity benefit scheme.

It is often cheaper for the cantons to have people depend on invalidity benefit than to offer them social assistance, which takes a larger bite out of cantonal budgets.

In the red

The SIO also revealed that the funding pot for invalidity claims is currently running at a deficit of SFr1.1 billion ($800 million).

The budget, which is drawn from social security contributions and donations from the cantons and federal government, equalled SFr8.8 billion.

More than two-thirds of claimants - those categorised as having a disability level of over 60 per cent - qualified for the maximum grant of close to SFr1,500 a month.

Older men were more likely to claim: one in five men approaching retirement age receivers some kind of invalidity benefit.

swissinfo, Faryal Mirza

Key facts

Number of people receiving full grant:
1990: 164,000
1995: 199,000
2000: 229,000
2001: 242,000
2002: 259,000
2003: 271,000

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In brief

Every person in Switzerland who has paid social security contributions for at least 12 months is entitled to regular monthly payments.

Some 465,000 received some kind of invalidity benefit in 2002.

In 1992 some 320,000 claimed invalidity benefit.

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