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Religions and social welfare

Organisation of the social action in Switzerland

The Swiss State is a highly developed federalist structure. The subsidiary principle, according to which the Confederation can only act on the basis of a competence that the Constitution (...)

The Swiss State is a highly developed federalist structure. The subsidiary principle, according to which the Confederation can only act on the basis of a competence that the Constitution expressly recognises as its own (presumption of competences benefiting the cantons), defines the duties of the Confederation and the cantons. The cantons enjoy a high degree of responsibility in fiscal and educational matters as well as in some social policy and sanitary areas. With regards to social policy, the Confederation is responsible for the main pillars of social security (old age insurance, unemployment insurance, etc.).
Cantons remain deeply involved when it comes to finance or to the implementation of most of the programmes. Thus, for instance, social welfare is administrated by a federal law, its application depends on the cantons which, very often, delegate the organisation of social welfare to the local authorities. The implementation of social welfare can vary from one canton to another and even from one town to another.

D 8 October 2012    AClaude Bovay ADelphine Gex-Collet

The importance of religion in social and health plans

Since the 19th century, the reference to religious values (mainly Christian ones) has only had a variable role in the debates that go hand in hand with the implementation and development of the (...)

Since the 19th century, the reference to religious values (mainly Christian ones) has only had a variable role in the debates that go hand in hand with the implementation and development of the legislations in the social or health area. Many institutions, above all local ones, have been initiated by religious organisms or by people motivated by a religious conviction. Progressively, authorities have become responsible for the management and the financing of most of these institutions. Nowadays, only a few institutions (hospital, kinder garden, associations) are directly administered by a Church or a religious community. Many social services stemming from Churches or religious communities’ social or diaconal action (Caritas, Protestant Social Centre, Salvation Army, etc…) manage locally or within the cantons some social problems.
Issues concerning the recognition of the people’s cultural / religious rights are controlled at the level of the federal Constitution (article 15), of the cantons legislations or directives by the organisms or institutions concerned. Chaplaincies of Reformed and / or Roman Catholic churches are generally active in public organisms such as hospitals, prisons, specialised education centres, asylum seekers centres, the army, etc…
Cantons rule the relations between both Churches and religious communities and the Swiss State. Because of federalism, there are important differences between the cantons concerning the volume and nature of the Churches and religious communities’ activities in the social and health area. It is the same for the financing of these activities.
Because of the demographic and sociocultural changes of these last twenty years, a debate concerning the implementation of the principle of “religious neutrality” within social and health institutions has appeared. Churches and religious communities agree with this process but cannot negotiate to their advantage the conditions of their implementation in the plans financed by the authorities.

Sources :
- BECCI I., BOVAY C., « Les représentations sociales autour de la pluralisation religieuse ». Social Compass 54(2), 2007, p. 145 – 159.
- CATTACIN S. & al., Etat et religion en Suisse. Luttes pour la reconnaissance, formes de la reconnaissance. Études du Forum suisse pour l’étude des migrations et de la population (FSM) mandatée par la Commission fédérale contre le racisme (CFR) : Berne, 2003.
- FRAGNIERE J-P., Girod R., Dictionnaire suisse de la politique sociale. Lausanne, Réalités sociales, 2002 (2e édition).
- GILLIAND P., Rossini S., La protection sociale en Suisse. Lausanne, Réalités sociales, 1997.
- KRISEI, H., Le système politique suisse. Paris, Economica, 1998.
- Avenir social, Code de déontologie des professionnel-le-s du travail social : Berne, 2006.

D 8 October 2012    AClaude Bovay ADelphine Gex-Collet

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