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Number of working poor in Switzerland drops

People without formal training are more likely to join the ranks of the working poor

(Keystone)

The number of working people who live below the poverty line has dropped in Switzerland, thanks to a more robust economy.

Around 211,000 people failed in 2004 to earn enough to cover their basic needs, down 20,000 over the previous year's figure.

In Switzerland, a single person earning less than SFr2,490 ($1,895) a month - after tax and social security are deducted - and a couple with two children getting less than SFr4,603 are considered to be below the poverty line.

The number of poor workers has gone down since the turn of the century, according to the Federal Statistics Office.

Since 2000, the working poor have represented at most 7.9 per cent of the working population, an improvement over the late 1990s, when the rate climbed as high as nine per cent.

This period coincided with a higher unemployment rate and fewer opportunities on the job market.

The opposite has been true for the past nine months in Switzerland. The country's economy has grown while unemployment has remained steady between 3.7 and 3.9 per cent.

"When unemployment rises, it puts pressure on workers' salaries as there are fewer job opportunities," said Eric Crettaz of the statistics office on Monday.

Not all equal

The office says the number of working poor could remain stable. But it warns that the figure could rise if the economy takes a turn for the worse.

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 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.

"These figures show that poverty is still a problem in Switzerland," said Frances Trezevant of Swiss Workers' Aid (SWA), a non-governmental organisation.

"There is a problem with our economy when even if you have a job you can't earn enough to live on."

SWA and most unions have demanded in the past a minimum salary of SFr3,000 per month for all workers.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Working poor are defined as people between the ages of 20 and 59 who live below the poverty line.

The working population is defined as anyone who works at least one hour per week for a salary.

The poverty line is set at SFr2,490 for a single person, SFr4,603 for a couple with two children.

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