Covid-19 has widened economic and health disparities, study finds 

Switzerland has been shocked to see during the pandemic long lines of people queuing for food and basic necessities in Geneva. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

Low-income households in Switzerland have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus crisis, while those on high incomes are still managing relatively well, according to a large-scale survey of people living in the country. 

This content was published on February 23, 2021 - 12:18

Those with a household income of under CHF4,000 ($4,480) saw their earnings drop by an average of 20% since the start of the pandemic, while earnings of  households with monthly incomes of more than CHF16,000 fell by 8%, according to a study by the KOF Swiss Economic InstituteExternal link released on Tuesday. 

High-income households cut their spending more (by around 16%) than low-income ones (12%), but for different reasons. Wealthier households cut their expenses mainly because they had fewer needs and fewer opportunities to spend. Although these reasons also apply to low-income households, 11% of these said they cut spending because they simply had less money. 
Increasing inequality is also reflected in the levels of household saving one year after the outbreak of the pandemic, said KOF. Whereas savings have fallen significantly among low-income households, they have risen among half of households on the highest incomes. Around 39% of those on monthly household incomes of less than CHF4,000 even said they had been forced to draw on their savings to cover current expenses. 
The study found that the mental health of people on low incomes has also steadily worsened since the outbreak of the pandemic last spring. People affected by unemployment have often reported being in particularly poor health, it said. 

Meanwhile, initially high levels of trust in the Swiss government to manage the coronavirus crisis have declined over time, the study found. At the beginning of the crisis, just under 20% of respondents said they had little or very little trust in the Federal Council. By October 2020 and January 2021 this had risen to 40%.  

Respondents from low-income households have slightly lower levels of trust in political leaders than wealthier respondents. 

The KOF study is based on surveys conducted by Sotomo/SRF about the situation of households in Switzerland since the start of the pandemic. Six surveys covering a total of 202,516 people have been conducted since March 2020.  

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