Social security

People living and working in Switzerland benefit from a tightly woven network of social insurance schemes designed to safeguard them against risks that would otherwise overwhelm them financially. These insurance schemes provides various benefits, including pensions, loss of earnings compensation, family allowances and cover for medical expenses and accidents.

A carer assisting an elderly woman in her home.
Switzerland's social security system provides comprehensive protection and support from birth to old age. © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

The Swiss social security system has five branches: old-age, survivors' and invalidity insurance (pension), health and accident insurance, compensation for loss of earnings as the result of military/alternative civilian service or maternity, unemployment insurance and family allowances.

The pension system rests on three pillars. The 'first pillar' consists of the old-age and survivors' insurance (AHV/AVS) and the invalidity insurance scheme (IV/AI). This pillar is financed by salary contributions, with employees and employers each paying half.  First-pillar insurance is compulsory and state-run. The 'second pillar' is the occupational pension scheme, which is also compulsory. Employees with annual earnings of at least CHF 22,050 are automatically insured under an occupational pension fund. The 'third pillar' is an optional, private savings scheme. Contributions to the third pillar enjoy tax advantages and typically may not be accessed before retirement. The retirement age for women and men is 65.

Private providers offer health and accident insurance cover. Everyone living in Switzerland is obliged to take out a basic health insurance policy with a provider of their choice. The monthly health insurance premium varies depending on the insurance company, the insurance model chosen and the deductible (adults can choose a deductible ranging from a minimum of CHF 300 to a maximum of CHF 2,500 annually). Once the deductible is exhausted, insured individuals are responsible for paying 10% of their healthcare costs, known as 'Selbstbehalt'/'quote part' (coinsurance). The deductible is capped at a maximum of CHF 700 per calendar year. In addition to the compulsory basic insurance, a wide range of complementary insurance options are available.

The earnings compensation scheme (EO) covers loss of earnings during military service, alternative civilian service and civil protection service. The EO also covers 80% of the loss of earnings during maternity (maternity allowance) for 14 weeks following the birth of a child, as well as earnings lost during paternity leave for 2 weeks following the birth. 

Unemployment insurance benefits amount to 70% or 80% of the claimant's last salary. Depending on their age, support obligations and the length of the insurance period, the claimant may be entitled to a daily allowance for between 90 and 520 days. However, a condition of eligibility is that the claimant must have contributed for at least 12 months in the two years before becoming unemployed.

Child allowance rates vary from canton to canton. The minimum is CHF 200 per month for children under 16. The minimum education allowance is CHF 250 per month for children aged between 16 and 25 who are still in education.