Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

News 28/02/2017

Recent social policy initiatives in Germany, Norway and Switzerland

Three new Flash Reports prepared by the European Social policy Network (ESPN) have become available and provide information on recent policy developments in Germany, Switzerland and Norway.

  • The German Parliament passed the “Act on the Reform of the Temporary Agency Work Act and other Acts”, which will come into force on 1 April 2017. The main objective of the reform is to re-orientate temporary agency employment to its core function (i.e. dealing with peak periods and temporary staff fluctuations) and to prevent the abuse of service contracts. Indeed, while temporary agency work and service contracts are important instruments in the German work-sharing economy, efforts must be made to prevent their abuse and avoid them circumventing labour law.
  • In Norway, a government-appointed expert commission has launched proposals to abolish survivors’ benefits under the National Insurance system and instead introduce a completely individualised pension system. For surviving spouses below 67, the commission suggests to limit income protection to a transitional allowance. For surviving old age pensioners, it recommends to no longer make it possible to “inherit” part of the pension rights from a deceased spouse. The suggested reforms are likely to be met with criticism since they would widen the gender gap in pensions.
  • Switzerland is one of the OECD countries where childcare is most expensive for parents. This is not because Swiss childcare centres are more expensive, but because the subsidies provided by the responsible authorities (i.e. cantons and municipalities) only cover a small portion of the total cost. To make formal childcare financially more accessible for low to middle income families, the federal government is planning to introduce incentives: if cantons and municipalities increase their childcare subsidies, the federal government would reimburse 37% of the increase in cost over a three year period.

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