Child poverty rings alarms bells in Switzerland

In each school class there is on average one child that is poor, according to Caritas Keystone

More than 100,000 children are affected by poverty in Switzerland and the number is on the rise, according to Swiss Catholic charity Caritas. It has called on politicians to implement supplementary family benefits across the country. 

This content was published on December 2, 2019 - 12:07

“Switzerland shows no willingness to act. The government is leaving the fight against poverty to the cantons, which leads to inequality of opportunity,” criticised CaritasExternal link on Monday. 

Following elections in October, Caritas urged the new parliament to “take the lead and create the legal framework for a national fight against child poverty”.

There are some 1.7 million children in Switzerland, 103,000 of whom are affected by poverty, said Marianne Hochuli, head of the NGO’s research department. 

“In other words, in each school class, there is on average one child that is poor. And if we count the children living just above the poverty line, there are three per class,” she said. 

One third of the people on welfare are children and adolescents, according to Caritas. 

“It is intolerable that children’s development should suffer as a result of their parents’ insufficient income or that these children should be punished because of the family situation in which they grow up,” said Hugo Fasel, director of Caritas Switzerland. 

Working poor 

The NGO underscored that effective measures exist to combat child poverty, highlighting evidence from four cantons. Geneva, Vaud, Solothurn and Ticino have introduced additional benefits for families, resulting in a significant decline in the number of families who claim welfare. 

There are many reasons for child poverty in Switzerland, the charity explained. Raising a child costs around CHF7,000-CHF14,000 a year, which is particularly high for low-income parents, it said. About 70% of children affected by poverty in Switzerland grow up in working poor families.

Caritas also points out that Switzerland is below the European average in terms of public investment in children and families.

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