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Swiss study finds too many foreign pensioners live in poverty

Too many foreign pensioners who have often been working in Switzerland for decades now live in poverty, according to a government committee.

This content was published on September 29, 1999 - 16:12

Too many foreign pensioners who have often been working in Switzerland for decades now live in poverty, according to a government committee.

The Federal Foreigners Commission and Pro Senectute, the largest Swiss group lobbying for the interests of the elderly, said Wednesday that care for foreign pensioners in Switzerland must clearly be improved.

According to statistics presented in the capital Berne, elderly foreigners are twice as likely to suffer from poverty, health problems and loneliness than Swiss retirees of the same age.

Poverty and illness were often based on the fact that the immigrants -- particularly first-generation workers – were often left with nothing but unskilled manual jobs when they came to Switzerland.

Years of hard physical work, sometimes carried out in an environment characterised by anti-foreigner sentiment, had clearly left their marks, said government and Pro Senectute officials.

About 20 percent of foreign pensioners are said to rely on social security benefits to boost old age pensions.

The Swiss officials said more must be done to help those foreigners who are in clear need of support, not least in light of the fact that they had contributed for years to the Swiss economy.

Under the current system, eligibility for many benefit payments runs out once foreigners leave the country and decide to return at a later stage. Officials suggest that foreigners should be allowed to draw benefits irrespective of where they live, provided they had lived and worked in Switzerland for ten years.

According to the latest estimates, the current number of 67,000 foreign pensioners will increased to 123,000 by 2010.

From staff and wire reports.


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