Local background of the social innovations
In Switzerland, there is not only a large sharing of competencies between the communal, cantonal and the federal levels, but also local authorities (and in particular city governments) and cantons develop their own social policies in many areas. For instance, social assistance is a compulsory task, imposed by the Confederation, but the cantons and the communes fulfill it and also have the choice to fix the types of programmes and the level of benefits. Also, specific policies are often developed by the cities and the cantons, for example to face unemployment and favor reintegration of people at the margins of society.
Since the first half of the 1990s, for instance, unemployment increased in Switzerland and several cantons implemented programs of unemployment assistance, this dimension being absent at the federal level. In particular, the canton of Geneva put in place a Minimum Cantonal Income in 1994, which was inspired by the French minimum income support (Revenu minimum d’insertion or RMI), as an answer to the unemployment rate of the canton that is one of the highest of the country (with today around 5% of the cantonal working force).
Together with the city of Geneva, the canton of Geneva created one of the most developed and generous systems of social and health care services in Switzerland. In many fields, Geneva is pioneering the development of services. For instance, it was the first canton in Switzerland to introduce an obligatory maternity leave insurance that permitted to extend from two to four month the period of home stay.
Welfare innovations in the three policy fields
The three services presented here are related to the fields in which Geneva is particularly considered innovative: community oriented services (at the city level of Geneva – the Unités d’Action Communautaire), services for the inclusion in the labour market of people with impairments and risks of discrimination (the ORIF project) and finally services for people with difficulties in finding housing opportunities (the Unit for Temporary Housing). The three examples are characterised by a specific welfare mix trying to include in the logic of service production for and non-profit organisations as well as public administration units, and to work on the specific needs of their targeted population groups.