I always find it’s impossible to visit Switzerland without drawing comparisons between its efficient way of doing things and the UK. I know it’s clichéd but like all good clichés it’s rooted in reality. So here I am sitting outside the bakery in La Barboleuse drinking some coffee and eating my second pastry reading a provocative article on the Swiss welfare system in the copy of The Spectator which was in my bag.
James Bartholomew writes a compelling piece about how welfare payments are made in Switzerland – in many cases not by the Federal Government, not even by one of the 26 Cantons but by one of 2,900 Communes. He uses the example of a baby born out of wedlock where the mother needs financial support. “As a last resort, the young mother will be given assistance by the commune. But the people who pay the local commune taxes will be paying part of the cost. You can imagine that they will not be thrilled at paying for a birth or separation that need never have taken place. Putting yourself in the position of the mother – and perhaps the father – you can imagine that you will be embarrassed as you pass people in the street who are paying for your baby. Instead of feeling you have impersonal legal rights, as in Britain, you are taking money from people you might meet at your local cafe. No wonder unmarried parenting is less common.”
Some might think this is sinister but in many respects it’s returning to the ethos of the local community looking after it’s own.
If you get a chance go read the original article. This is a heavy topic for a holiday morning but the coincidence warranted a blog.