Last year, just over three per cent of all Swiss residents, or 273,273 people, received social benefits, the Federal Statistical Office reports. Around 90% of refugees and asylum seekers are on welfare.
In 2016, the total number of people who received benefits rose by 7,647 to 273,273, the statistics office reported external linkon Tuesday. This upwards trend has continued since 2008.
Children (up to the age of 17) represent one out of every three beneficiaries, while foreign residents are 6.3% of the overall total.
Cities such as Neuchâtel, Basel, Geneva, Lausanne and Bern have the highest number of beneficiaries, while the lowest are found in the rural cantons Appenzell, Obwalden and Uri.
In 2016, 85.8% of refugees, or 25,544 people, received social assistance. The rate for asylum seekers was 88.4%, or 55,504 persons. Most come from Eritrea and Syria.
The non-governmental organisation Caritas external linkwarned on Tuesday that the actual number of people needing welfare may be higher as not all entitled people apply. It referred to a canton Bern study that showed that one quarter of those entitled to benefits had decided not to apply to the social services.
The NGO also pointed out that last year nearly 40,000 people exhausted their right to unemployment insurance benefits. In addition, 145,000 working poor earn salaries that do not allow them to make ends meet.
Caritas also denounced "attacks on social security" by several cantons which it accuses of competing to carry out the biggest cuts to social services affecting the poor. The NGO urges the authorities to introduce a federal legal framework to oversee welfare issues.
swissinfo.ch and agencies/sb