swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

swissworld.org - Switzerland's official information portal

Your Gateway to Switzerland

Home and work

Women complain of the difficulty of combining motherhood with a career, and as a result, many give up work. Women still tend to look after the house and children while the man is normally the main breadwinner.

According to researchers conducting a study into family models for the National Science Foundation, in 2000 the father was the only breadwinner in one third of families, and in half of all families the father had a full time job while the mother had a part time one. In only just over one per cent did the partners divide breadwinning, housework and childcare equally between them.

The number of women continuing to work after starting a family increased dramatically during the 1990s, but most of them do so part time. Among women with children under 15 in 2001, 74% were professionally active, although most switched to part-time hours. This compared with only 61% in 1991.

Until 2005 Switzerland had no obligatory maternity benefit. As of July 1st 2005 working women receive 80% of their salary during their 14-week maternity leave. Previously only women lucky enough to work for a socially progressive enterprise continued to receive a salary even while they were on maternity leave (as a rule for no longer than four months), but no employer was bound by law to pay them.

Another problem facing women at work is the lack of child care facilities. Places in municipal crèches at prices which mothers/parents can afford are in short supply, and the prices at private crèches are beyond the reach of many people. However, employers have recently made moves towards becoming more family-friendly, since they realize they need to attract women into the workforce.

The Swiss school day does not take working mothers into account. School hours are not harmonised, so children in the same family may have staggered starting and ending times. Swiss schools also have up to two hours off at lunch time for the children to go home to eat, although it is usually now possible for a midday meal to be arranged for schoolchildren.

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