5. Social insurance systems and social assistance
For almost all social insurance schemes mentioned below, the responsible Public office is Office cantonal des assurances sociales - OCAS
Unemployment insurance / Assurance chômage
Every person who has worked in Switzerland and who, during that period, paid his/her contributions to the unemployment insurance scheme for at least 12 months within the last 2 years, can, if he/she fulfils the conditions, obtain an unemployment allowance, insofar as he/she reports rapidly and no more than one day after the end of the employment to the Office cantonal de l'emploi.
You can also receive advice from trade unions or specialized associations :
Pension schemes (AVS-LPP)
Every person must be registered with the "Old-age and survivors insurance scheme" (AVS) from the age of 17 for employees or from the age of 20 for persons without gainful employment. For employees, it is the Employer who must proceed with the registration, but persons without gainful employment must register themselves. This insurance entitles you to a pension allowance from the age of 64 (for women) or 65 (for men). If you do not work, it is recommended that you register upon arrival, but the legislation provides for a delay of maximum 5 years to register by contacting the Caisse cantonale genevoise de compensation, at the OCAS.
From the age of 17, contributions to a complementary pension fund (2nd pillar) are also mandatory in certain cases (income, collective agreement, etc.); there is also a supplementary optional pension fund (3rd pillar).
Accident insurance and loss-of-earnings insurance in case of occupational or non-occupational accident / Assurance accident et assurance perte de gain en cas d'accident
Every person who works at least 8 hours a week must be insured by his/her employer against occupational and non-occupational accidents. This insurance covers medical costs related to the potential consequences of accidents. Persons without gainful employment must take out accident insurance with their health insurance company.
The (mandatory) loss-of-earnings insurance in case of occupational or non-occupational accident contributes to compensating for loss of earnings for wage earners who have suffered an occupational or non-occupational accident, or are victim of occupational illness.
Loss-of-earnings insurance in case of illness / Assurance perte de gain en cas de maladie
This insurance (which is not mandatory but is included in most collective labour agreements) can guarantee an entitlement to 80% of your wages for a maximum period of 720 days.
Disability insurance / Assurance invalidité - AI
In case of permanent incapacity, whether partial or total, because of an accident or an illness, every person is entitled to disability insurance allowances if he/she fulfils the following conditions:
- the person resides in the Canton of Geneva and has resided in Switzerland for at least 5 years
- he/she has paid his/her AI contributions during at least one year, and
- the injury or damage to his/her health has occurred in Switzerland.
Maternity insurance / Assurance maternité
All women, whether employed, self-employed (wage-earners or not), or unemployed, are entitled to a 16-week maternity leave, paid at least 80% of their income.
For more information, please consult:
Family allowances / Allocations familiales
Family allowances are for the (legitimate, natural or adopted) children of employed, self-employed, or unemployed persons, or of their spouses or registered partners according to Swiss federal law. These children are entitled to only one family allowance, which may not be combined with other legal allowances of the same type for the same child.
To know more about the conditions and procedures to obtain this allowance, please contact the OCAS :
- Allocations familiales - salariés (employees)
- Allocations familiales - indépendants (self-employed)
- Allocations familiales - personnes sans activité lucrative (people without gainful activity)
The Canton of Geneva is responsible for all public social and financial assistance, which is managed by the Hospice général.
Some municipalities provide information in different languages for migrants and can offer one-time financial assistance in various areas. Contact your municipality of residence.
Additional benefits / Prestations complémentaires
Subject to conditions, some categories of the residing population are entitled to additional benefits. For more information: Service des prestations complémentaires
Housing allowance / Allocation de logement
The housing allowance is an individualized financial assistance for tenants whose rent is too high in relation to their income and fortune. To know more about the conditions and application procedures for this allowance : allocation de logement.
Assistance offered by private not-for-profit institutions
Cheaper food and clothing, debt relief assistance, advice and information on social allowances (housing, health insurance) :