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Disability Insurance: Switzerland

Collective benefits scheme implemented for people living with disabilities in Switzerland

June 5, 2023
Author: Rittwick Dutta

The Swiss Disability Insurance scheme (called “Invalidenversicherung” in German and “Assurance-invalidité” in French) was first implemented in 1960.1 The insurance scheme guarantees the livelihood of anyone who becomes unable to work due to damage to their physical, mental, or psychological health that cannot be overcome through medical treatment (separate from schemes to support those who become temporarily unwell). The insurance scheme operates to include people with disabilities into the workforce through inclusive working measures or a pension.2

In the aftermath of World War II and the era of economic expansion that followed, Switzerland suffered from a shortage of workers during the post World War II economic expansion.3 Swiss policymakers realized that fostering inclusive labor market integration would have substantial economic benefits. Therefore, it sought to increase savings and workforce participation, at least partly by providing for an insurance scheme that works to prevent social exclusion for those living with a disability and facing long-term health issues. This was also expected to strengthen the economy by increasing workforce participation, with the aid of these occupational integration measures. The resulting disability insurance scheme was formally called Invalidenversicherung or Assurance-Invalidité (AI/IV) in 1960.

The insurance is for those living with health-related issues that are either permanent or last for at least a year. The disability insurance is one part of the Swiss social insurance system, where other compulsory insurance schemes work collectively towards reducing social and economic exclusion:

  • Accident insurance
  • Occupational pension insurance
  • Military insurance
  • Old-age and survivors insurance

The guiding principle of the AI/IV is to increase accessibility to the workforce–that is, to improve conditions of work to reduce potential adverse effects on health outcomes.4 Anyone who is unable to work for a continuous period of 30 days, or is repeatedly absent for brief periods, should notify the insurance office.

There are a range of inclusive measures that are implemented depending on the type and severity of the disability include:

  • Workplace adjustments and training courses
  • Job search assistance in case of loss of employment
  • Counseling and mental health support
  • Vocational training and retraining
  • Medical measures and assistive devices
  • Induction allowances and capital assistance

People who receive the AI/IV payments will also receive an additional payment for children up until they turn 18 years old (25 if studying). The payment is equivalent to 40 percent of the AI/IV payment the adult receives, and is capped at 60 percent if both parents receive AI/IV.5

In addition to monthly payments, the scheme includes medical treatment for physical disabilities, and mental health support through therapy. It helps young beneficiaries access employment training, pays for assistive devices such as hearing aids or wheelchairs, and provides applicants with financial support for counseling and retraining before they return to the workforce.6


The disability insurance was implemented in 1960 under the Disability Insurance Act of 1959 and is administered and implemented by the Federal Social Insurance Office. A decentralized network of cantonal (regional), industrial, and federal compensation funds collect contributions from residents and pay pensions.

Social insurance schemes enacted before 1960 were focused on providing medical treatment and pensions, with no provisions for reintegration into the workforce. Over time, the reintegration measures expanded to include contribution increases for assistive devices and special education schools (1967), quarterly pensions (1986), and an assistance budget for people with disabilities (2006).7 By 2006, the emphasis of the insurance scheme had shifted to create a more inclusive labor market.


The disability insurance is paid directly from revenues earned by Swiss residents and employees. Workers pay 0.7 percent from their salaries, and their employers contribute 0.7 percent. Self-employed people contribute the entire 1.4 percent if they earn more than CHF 58,500 (USD 63,733). Those earning less pay smaller contributions.8 The Swiss Government covers approximately 38 percent of the insurance expenses. The total budget amounts to around CHF 150 million a year (USD 162,586,050).9


According to a study by the OECD, In most countries, the incomes of households with people with a disability is about five to 15 percent lower than households with only able-bodied persons, yet in Switzerland there is practically no difference. 10 As a result of the importance given to reintegration into the workplace, six out of ten working-age people with a disability are in work, whereas the average rate amongst OECD countries is around 40 to 45 percent.11 Furthermore, the unemployment rate for disabled people in Switzerland is 3.7 percent, second only to Mexico at 3.6 percent.12