Swiss voters will decide whether thousands of former child laborers and others who were taken away from their families and subject to cruel treatment should receive compensation from the government.

Sending children from poor families, especially with single mothers, away to work on farms was common practice in Switzerland well into the 20th century.

Many of the "contract children" experienced emotional, physical and sexual abuse at the hands of those who were meant to care for them, while rarely receiving any payment for their labor.

The government said Tuesday that campaigners have collected the required 100,000 signatures to force a referendum on a plan for a compensation fund for survivors.

Advocates proposed that the government set aside 500 million Swiss francs ($490 million) for wrongs committed until the early 1980s.