Inequality greater than most Swiss think: unions

The disparity between Switzerland’s richest residents and the rest of the population is much greater than most people living in the country believe, according to a survey conducted for trade unions.

Inequality greater than most Swiss think: unions
Checking the "facts" about who owns Swiss assets (Vermögen). Image: SGB

The nation believes that the richest 20 percent of the population own 57 percent of the assets, while the poorest 60 percent have to make do with 23 percent, according the results of the representative poll of 1,002 people.

That sounds like an unequal distribution but the reality is much more harsh, the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB) and the Unia union said in an online report on Monday.

Data from the federal tax administration shows that the richest fifth of the country own 86 percent of the assets, the union group said.

The poorest 60 percent of the population, meanwhile, own just four percent of the assets.

“People have much too rosy a picture of the distribution of wealth in (Switzerland),” Daniel Lampart, SGB chief economist said in a video produced by the union group.

One fifth of the population has trouble making ends meet at the end of the month while others live in abundance, Lampart said.

People are entitled to be angry with this injustice and it has nothing to do with envy, the unions say.

The SGB information coincides with a campaign in support of an initiative for a federal inheritance tax of 20 percent on assets of two million francs or more, as well as on donations of more than 20,000 francs.

Swiss citizens will decide on the proposal in a national referendum on June 14th.

The initiative makes exceptions and tax reductions in cases involving the transfer of family businesses.

Supporters say the tax would generate three billion francs a year in revenues, two-thirds of which would go to helping finance the national pension scheme (AHV) with the remainder going to the cantons.

The SGB maintains the tax would also slow the growth of wealth being concentrated into a few hands. 

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