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Calls mount for action over poverty in Switzerland

caritas market for the poor
Products in a Caritas market for the poor in Zurich (archive picture) Keystone

Officials have given the national programme against poverty, which finishes at the end of the year, a positive assessment. But there have been calls for more to be done. Funding is also an issue.

“There is still an enormous amount to do,” declared home affairs minister Alain Berset, at a conference held on Friday to mark the end of the programmeExternal link. Poverty is not acceptable in a country as rich as Switzerland, said Berset, who is also this year’s president.

There are currently 615,000 people living in poverty in Switzerland, which corresponds to 7.5% of the permanent resident population. Some 108,000 of the people affected are children.

The poverty line in SwitzerlandExternal link is defined as being CHF2,247 ($2,318) per month for an individual and CHF3,981 per month for a family with two adults and two children under 14 years old.

+ Find out more about children living in poverty in affluent Switzerland

The anti-poverty programme, run by the federal government along with cantons, cities, municipalities, and non-governmental organisations, has made progress in the past five years, Berset said. It received a total of CHF9 million ($9.3 million) over that period.

But some goals had not been achieved, such as an online information platform for people affected by poverty and national monitoring of those affected, Berset pointed out.

Funding issue

The government will take on a supporting role in the next phase, which will be known as the national platform against poverty. There will also be less funding – it was announced in April that it would be reduced to CHF2.5 million over the next five years.

NGO CaritasExternal link has already criticised the reduction in funds and governmental input. In a statementExternal link released on August 27, it accused the government of distancing itself from poverty policy and passing on the responsibility to the cantons during the next phase.

Caritas has been calling efforts to ensure that poverty is reduced by half in Switzerland.

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