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Charity warns of rising poverty

Looking for a job is hard work

(Keystone)

The Catholic charity, Caritas, says one million people in Switzerland – one in every seven residents - is affected by poverty.

In its "Social Almanac 2006", Caritas called for an improved social insurance system at the national level to provide for those who had fallen through the safety net.

The charity said the number of people excluded from the job market was much higher than the 146,000 people officially listed as unemployed in November.

It said the statistics did not account for people who had gone into early retirement, those drawing disability insurance, and young adults who had yet to enter the workforce.

Caritas said the job market had failed in its function to provide for society's wellbeing.

A survey conducted earlier this month by research institute gfs.bern, showed that unemployment and becoming poor were among the top worries of the Swiss.

Scared

More than 70 per cent said they feared losing their job, which is twice as high as it was five years ago. Nearly 30 per cent said they were scared of becoming poor.

By contrast, the number of so-called "working poor" in Switzerland has fallen since 2000, according to figures released last month by the Federal Statistics Office.

The office said that last year around 211,000 people failed to earn enough to cover their basic needs, down 20,000 over the previous year's figure.

It considers a single person with a net monthly salary of SFr2,480 ($1,895) or less and a couple with two children getting less than SFr4,600 to be below the poverty line.

Better than 90s

The official statistics show that at most 7.9 per cent of the working population can be regarded as working poor. That's an improvement over the late 1990s, when the rate climbed as high as nine per cent.

Single parent and larger families, people without formal training and foreigners from outside the European Union are more likely to belong to the working poor.

Self-employed people, especially those with no employees of their own, are also more likely to end up below the poverty line.

The type of employment contract can also have an influence on salaries. Employees with a fixed-term contract or those re-entering the workforce are likely to earn less.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

The official poverty line is SFr2,480 for a single person residing in Switzerland.
Couples with two children must earn a minimum net salary of SFr4,600 to remain above it.
According to the Federal Statistics Office, the percentage of poor in Switzerland was 12.5% in 2004.
It said there were 211,000 "working poor" in the country last year - people between the ages of 20 and 59.

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