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Poverty in Switzerland rising, official figures show

Around 12% of people in Switzerland said they had trouble making ends meet. Christof Schuerpf

The proportion of people living below the Swiss poverty line in 2019 grew to 8.7% of the population, the highest rate seen since 2014, according to a report published on Thursday.

This content was published on February 18, 2021 - 14:22
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The Federal Statistical Office, which released the figures, said poverty affected 735,000 people in the year before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country of 8.5 million. Among those in this category, 155,000 were in gainful employment, a statistic that the workers’ umbrella organisation Travail Suisse called “shocking”. The poverty rate among the working population was 4.2%.

The report also revealed that one in eight people (12%) said they had trouble making ends meet. One in five (nearly 21%) would not be able to manage an unexpected expense of CHF2,500 ($2,786) within the month. 

As in previous years, those most affected by poverty were foreigners, single-parent households, people with no post-compulsory education and those who were out of work.

Overall, the standard of living remained high in Switzerland, which is also known for its high cost of living. The median income was stable at roughly CHF50,000, according to the statistical office.

The report does not take account of effects of the pandemic, which began in Switzerland in early 2020. Travail Suisse believed that the coronavirus will worsen the problem of poverty. Restrictions, including lockdowns, imposed by the government to contain the disease have affected various economic sectors.

The poverty line is calculated based on standards set by the Swiss Conference for Social Assistance and was CHF2,279 per month for a single person and CHF3,976 for a household comprising two adults and two children.

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