Committee considered the initial report of Switzerland (E/1990/5/Add.33)
concerning the rights covered by articles 1 to 15 of the International
Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights at its 37th to
39th meetings, held on 20 and 23 November 1998, and adopted at the
55th meeting (nineteenth session) on 3 December 1998 the following
Committee notes that the report submitted by the State party has
been prepared in accordance with the Committee's guidelines. It
welcomes the presence of a large and high-level delegation from
the capital and notes that the very high quality of the dialogue
was enhanced by the presence of a specialist to deal with virtually
every article of the Covenant.
Committee greatly appreciates the Swiss delegation's frank, detailed
replies to all its questions, which enabled it to gain an overall
idea of the way in which Switzerland is discharging its obligations
under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural
B. Positive aspects
Committee notes with satisfaction that the Covenant has begun to
be accepted as an integral part of the Swiss legal system. It notes
that the Swiss courts, and notably the Federal Tribunal, have already
on some occasions referred to the provisions of the Covenant. In
this respect, the Committee notes with satisfaction that the decisions
of the Federal Tribunal seem to have remedied somewhat the shortcomings
of the Federal Constitution regarding articles 9, 11 and 12 of the
Committee expresses its appreciation of the range and quality of
the services provided to the population as a whole, in particular
social benefits for elderly persons and the disabled.
Committee notes the large number of foreigners residing in the State
party and welcomes the measures taken by the authorities to ensure
the enjoyment of their economic, social and cultural rights.
Committee also notes the efforts made by the Government of Switzerland
to integrate foreign workers and their families.
and difficulties impeding the implementation of the Covenant
Committee notes the absence of any significant factors or difficulties
preventing the effective implementation of the Covenant in Switzerland.
D. Principal subjects of concern
Committee recognizes that the State party's federal structure requires
that certain rights be provided for by the Cantons, nevertheless
it reaffirms the Committee's position that it is the legal responsibility
of the Federal Government to ensure the implementation of the Covenant.
Committee disagrees with the position of the State party that provisions
of the Covenant constitute principles and programmatic objectives
rather than legal obligations, and that consequently the provisions
of the Covenant cannot be given legislative effect. The Committee
does not share the view of the Swiss authorities and recalls that
in its General Comment No. 3 of 1990 on the nature of States parties'
obligations under article 2 of the Covenant, it refers to a number
of provisions in the Covenant, such as those of article 8 on the
right to strike and those of article 13 on the right to education,
which seem to be capable of immediate application within the judicial
system. The Committee is of the view that any suggestion that the
above-mentioned provisions are inherently non-self-executing seems
to be difficult to sustain.
Committee expresses concern at the situation in the State party
where certain Covenant rights are not constitutionally recognized,
i.e the right to work, to education and to culture. In the Committee's
view, the freedom to exercise a lucrative activity is not synonymous
or co-terminous with the right to work. In this respect, the Committee
regrets that implementation of these rights has to be sought by
individuals before the Courts, whereas they should be constitutionally
Committee notes that despite the high level of development reached
by Switzerland and the strength of its economy, there exist unacceptable
levels of poverty among certain segments of the population, in particular
Committee, while noting that draft legislation concerning the right
to strike by civil servants is to be put to popular vote, regrets
that this right still remains restricted for civil servants. The
Committee further notes with concern that the reform of the statute
on civil servants currently under way providing for the privatization
of certain public service, at the federal, cantonal and communal
levels, might infringe upon the acquired rights of civil servants,
as recognized under the Covenant.
Committee is concerned at the non-ratification by the State party
of ILO Conventions Nos. 98 and 174.
Committee notes that despite the constitutionalization of the right
to maternity benefits, the Parliament has not yet recognized this
right. This does not, in the Committee's view, satisfy the requirements
of article 10 that pregnant women should be entitled to adequate
social security benefits.
Committee takes the view that despite the existence of legislation
providing protection against discrimination, de facto discrimination
against women and ethnic minorities continues to exist.
Committee notes with concern that, in many areas, such as access
to higher education, access to posts of responsibility and equal
remuneration for work of equal value, equality between men and women
has not yet been achieved in practice.
Committee regrets the relatively high proportion of women in lower
paid jobs and among part-time and "on-call" workers, and also the
comparatively low proportion of women in higher education.
Committee notes with concern the high incidence of domestic violence
against women, which the State party has estimated at 110,000 cases
per year. It regrets that the lack of more detailed statistics has
not allowed the Committee to obtain a clear picture of the situation
in the State party in this respect.
Committee also regrets that the available statistical data on violence
against women and child abuse, including paedophilia, have not been
analysed and used to formulate measures to address these problems.
It regrets that this lack of information has prevented both the
Government and the Committee from appreciating the extent of these
Committee is concerned that the State party's report lacks any information
on the mental health of the population as a whole and on the health
of mental patients in particular.
Committee regrets the silence of the report on abortion and the
incidence of diseases particular to women.
Committee expresses its concern that the ongoing reform of the social
security system may have adverse consequences for the underprivileged
sectors of society.
Committee notes with concern the high costs of health services in
Switzerland that are administered by private companies, which must
be paid for in full by both workers and pensioners, to the consequential
detriment of their standard of living.
E. Suggestions and recommendations
Committee suggests that the State party take appropriate steps to
give full legal effect to the Covenant, so that the rights covered
by it may be fully integrated into the legal system.
Committee recommends that the cantonal laws should be further harmonized,
to ensure due respect for the provisions of the Covenant, particularly
with regard to fundamental rights such as the right to work, education
Committee recommends that the State party accord equal treatment
to both International Human Rights Covenants in terms of their domestic
legal status and that if measures are taken to incorporate civil
and political rights treaty obligations consideration be given to
similar measures in relation to economic, social and cultural rights.
Committee recommends that the draft legislation concerning the right
of civil servants to strike be adopted as soon as possible, in line
with the State party's obligations under article 8, paragraph 2,
of the Covenant.
Committee also recommends that any modification to the statute on
civil servants be formulated in such a way as to safeguard the acquired
rights of civil servants, as guaranteed in the Covenant.
Committee further recommends early ratification of ILO Conventions
Nos. 98 and 174.
Committee recommends that adequate social security protection be
provided to pregnant women and recent mothers. The Committee further
emphasizes the importance of educational campaigns to develop awareness
of the problem of discrimination and recommends that all possible
measures be taken, in particular at the social infrastructure level,
to make it easier for women who wish to work outside the home to
Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts
to guarantee men and women equal access to employment and equal
wages for work of equal value.
Committee recommends that the State party play a more active role
in promoting equal access to higher education for women, immigrants
and ethnic minorities.
Committee requests the State party to provide up-to-date information
in its next report on measures taken to combat the phenomenon of
domestic violence and that of paedophilia.
Committee also requests the State party to provide more detailed
information in its next report on the situation of the mental health
of the population and in particular of mental patients in the country
and on progress achieved in this field.
Committee recommends that the State party, in accordance with article
12, paragraph 3 (d), of the Covenant, review its systems of health
care to prevent the high costs of these from having a negative effect
on the standard of living of families, which is incompatible with
article 11, paragraph 1 of the Covenant.
Committee requests the State party to disseminate its concluding
observations widely among all levels of society and to inform the
Committee on all steps taken to implement them. It also urges the
Government to consult with non-governmental organizations in the
preparation of the second periodic report.