A Swiss law that requires wealthy people to help financially support their relatives was thrown in the spotlight this weekend after a grandfather refused to contribute to his grandson's upkeep.
According to Swiss media, the 80-year-old grandfather has engaged a lawyer to fight the demand from the communal authorities that he provide financial support for his grandson, who is he not in contact with.
Under Switzerland's civil code, rich grandparents have a responsibility to help support any children and grandchildren in financial difficulties, and vice versa.
Article 328 says “a person living in financial comfort has a duty to lend assistance to any lineal relatives of older or younger generations who would suffer hardship without such assistance”.
Historically, this clause was introduced to oblige children and grandchildren to support their parents and grandparents in old age, Thomas Koller of Bern University told NZZ am Sonntag.
But increasingly it is being enforced the other way around, with social assistance offices demanding that rich retirees help support their younger descendants as the cost of benefits rockets up.
According to news agency ATS
, the cost of social welfare in Switzerland increased from 1.7 billion francs in 2005 to 2.6 billion in 2015.
Under the rule, the commune responsible for paying social welfare benefits can invoice part of the cost to the recipient's wealthy relative, if that relative meets certain conditions.
However the threshold for eligibility is high – the relative must have a considerable fortune before he or she is obliged to pay.
What's more, many communes find the administrative burden of imposing the rule too onerous, so they don't bother doing it, one expert told ATS.
As a result, the rule is not enforced systematically across the country.
But should it be applied more often? One MP thinks so. Speaking to 20 Minuten
, Silvia Schenker said as social costs increase it is right that relatives should bear some of the responsibility.
What's more, relatives' involvement may even be an incentive for the welfare recipient to get off benefits and change their situation, said another MP, Sebastian Frehner.