In Switzerland, one in 20 children was affected by poverty in 2014, with one in six at risk of poverty, according to statistics issued on Friday. The charity Caritas has called the numbers “a scandal”.
Almost 73,000 children aged less than 18 were considered poor in 2014, compared with 55,000 in 2013, the Federal Statistical Office said. This is nevertheless far fewer than in 2007, when the number stood at 150,000.
The employment situation of the parents is a key factor: around 30% of children affected by poverty are in households where there was no employment. The other 70% live in households in which the revenue was the same or less than the poverty threshold, despite paid employment.
Those living with a single parent are particularly affected. Around one in seven of these households is poor, and one in two suffers from material deprivation, such as not being able to do a hobby that entails costs or not having a quiet area in which to do homework. They are also more likely to be facing poor housing conditions, such as living in an area with a lot of noise or vandalism, noted the statistical office.
In many of these poorer households, parents put the children's needs before their own, the office added.
However, it was noted that the situation in Switzerland was “positive” compared with other European countries. The poverty risk was “rather rare” for children, and their housing conditions were relatively good. According to Eurostat, an average of around one in four children is at risk of poverty or social exclusion in the European Union.
Only the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries do as well or slightly better than Switzerland, the statistical office added. The social origin of parents (their educational background and nationality) was found to have only a slight influence on the child poverty risk in Switzerland, compared with many other European countries where it had a larger impact on poverty risk.
The charity Caritas nevertheless said it was a “scandal” that there were children still affected by poverty in such a rich land as Switzerland. “Caritas is calling on the government to act decisively against child poverty,” it said in a statement.
According to Caritas, Switzerland invests very little in families compared with other countries. It invests 1.5% of GDP, compared to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 2.1%.
The charity also stated that there is not enough support for balancing work and family; for example crèches are two to three times more expensive in Switzerland than in neighbouring countries. Ensuring living wages, access to early education and supplementary benefits were all ways to tackle family poverty, it said.
According to the statistical office, child poverty is a risk factor for poverty and social exclusion in later life.
The report includes a table of the poverty rate and at-risk-of-poverty rate in four scenarios. For example, for a single parent household with two children under 14, the poverty rate is CHF3,490 ($3,905) and the risk-of-poverty rate, CHF3,933.
These are average national values and meant for illustrative purposes only. To calculate the poverty indicators, the Federal Statistical Office uses individual poverty thresholds. This amount covers basic needs, housing costs and other expenditure such as insurance premiums. It does not include health insurance premiums as they have already previously been deducted from income.
swissinfo.ch and agencies