Swiss Interior Minister Didier Burkhalter has called for concerted action to fight poverty in Switzerland. About one in ten people lives below the poverty threshold.
Speaking at a one-day national conference in Bern, Burkhalter said that to be poor meant a person suffered from a feeling of being marginalised by society.
“Today we want to lay the foundation for a more efficient battle against poverty,” said Burkhalter at the start of Tuesday's conference.
He announced that the government had two priorities on the issue. One was to combat poverty within families and the other was to improve the chances of integration into the labour market of people hit or threatened by poverty.
“The main needs of people suffering from poverty are to obtain new prospects, to be better integrated into a society that is rapidly advancing and also gain more recognition,” he said.
Burkhalter said he would like the day to be a starting point for a decade during which the government, cantons, communes and organisations active in the fight against poverty could pool their efforts together.
He also said the day should make society understand the fact that one poor person was one poor person too many.
“When we talk about poverty, we mustn’t just speak of categories – but rather of and with individuals who need our support and motivation. They need to feel that others believe in them,” said Burkhalter.
The European Union has designated 2010 as the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion.
swissinfo.ch and agencies