Poverty remains a threat in land of plenty

Swiss charity Caritas has shops that cater to those who have trouble making ends meet Keystone

Nearly one person in seven is threatened by poverty in Switzerland according to the Federal Statistics Office’s 2011 survey on income and living conditions.

This content was published on December 18, 2012 - 14:36 and agencies

Those at risk from poverty earn less than 60 per cent of the so-called median equivalent income. In Switzerland, this is 14 per cent of the population, a figure that has remained stable according to figures released on Tuesday.

For a single person, this means living on less than SFr2,400 ($2,619) per month, while for a family with two adults and two children it means having to do with less than SFr5,100.

The risk level is slightly lower than the European average. “But our poverty threshold is one of the highest in Europe, behind Luxemburg and Norway, if purchasing power is taken into account,” said Stéphane Fleury, who led the survey for the statistics office.

The survey also shows that income strongly influences quality of life. In terms of income, the top 20 per cent of earners make 4.3 times more money than the bottom 20 per cent.

The survey showed that nearly one in five people live in a household that cannot afford an unexpected expense of SFr2,000. Nearly 13 per cent of the same group say they have trouble making ends meet.

Approximately 5.6 per cent of the population says that have to rely on their assets to pay their expenses, a figure that rises to 17.2 per cent for people over the age of 65. Two per cent of those surveyed also said that they had to take on debt to cover their ordinary expenditures.

Around half the respondents said they were able set money aside after all costs were deducted from their income, but 39.8 per cent said there was nothing left over at the end of the month.

Europe-wide statistics

The Swiss survey is part of the European Union Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), an instrument aimed at collecting microdata on income, poverty, social exclusion and living conditions.

The EU-SILC project was launched in 2003 in Belgium, Denmark, Greece, Ireland, Luxembourg and Austria, as well as in Norway.

Most other EU states have since joined, while Turkey and Switzerland became part of the project in 2007.

Social exclusion and housing condition information is collected at household level while labour, education and health information is obtained for persons aged 16 and over.

(Source: Eurostat)

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Quality of life

Income levels also play an important role in how people feel about their quality of life according to the statistics office. Higher revenue levels increase satisfaction levels about life in general, a person’s financial situation or their state of health for example.

Having trouble making ends meet or being unable to pay for unexpected expenses have a strong negative impact on people’s satisfaction levels. For those struggling to stay out of the red, only half say they are happy with their lives, while that figure rises to nearly 85 per cent for those with no financial worries.

People with low education, foreigners or single-parent families are those facing the most financial problems and are also those the least satisfied with their lives.

The link between material wealth and satisfaction with health comes to the fore in the over 50s. Just over half of those polled with lower income in this age group were satisfied with their health, while this figure increased to 75 per cent for those with higher revenues.

Among the under 50 age group polled for the survey income appears to have little or no effect on their satisfaction with health.

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