Virtually 20 percent of the Swiss population do not have the means to pay an unexpected expense of 2,500 francs or more at the end of the month, the federal statistics office (FSO) said in a report released on Tuesday.
The report found that almost one in ten people living in Switzerland (8.7 percent) cannot afford a week’s holiday away from their home.
It said the groups of people most impacted by poverty included single-parent families, people without any education beyond obligatory schooling and foreigners from non-European countries.
But it concluded that only a small percentage of the population is confronted with material privation (four percent, compared with an average for the European Union of 19.5 percent).
The statistics office said residents in Switzerland have, along with those of Norway and Liechtenstein, the highest standard of living in Europe.
Average purchasing power in the Alpine country is 1.7 times higher than in Italy and 1.3 times higher than in Germany or France, the FSO said.
Despite Switzerland’s high cost of living, and taking into account purchasing power, the financial situation of the Swiss population after deductions for obligatory expenses is “more comfortable” than for people living in neighbouring European countries and much of the EU.
And the gap between the rich and poor is less pronounced, the report said.
The revenue of the top 20 percent of wealthiest people in Switzerland was 4.2 times that of the bottom 20 percent, based on 2013 figures, compared to an average European ratio of five to one, it said.
By comparison the inequality ratio was much higher in countries such as Romania (6.6), Greece (6.6), Bulgaria (6.6), Lithuania (6.3) and Spain (6.3).
The report said that almost three-quarters (72.3 percent) of the Swiss population say they are very satisfied with their life in general.
The findings are based on a survey of 7,000 households representing more than 17,000 people.