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One in 10 struggle to make ends meet: Poverty in Switzerland revealed

The Local Switzerland
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One in 10 struggle to make ends meet: Poverty in Switzerland revealed
A person sits on a bench alone. A significant number of people in Switzerland struggle financially. Image by Melk Hagelslag from Pixabay

Switzerland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world which contributes to overall high satisfaction, but many people still have financial worries.

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People in Switzerland have the highest level of life satisfaction in Europe, according to a study published his week by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

However, that doesn't mean that everyone in the Alpine nation is satisfied with their quality of life. 

According to the FSO, who carried out the survey on income, poverty and living conditions in 2022, almost one in 10 people in Switzerland struggled to make ends meet financially, and nearly 5 percent of the population had to do without important goods, services and social activities due to financial reasons.

The poverty rate in Switzerland was measured as 8.2 percent. 

READ ALSO: The Swiss cantons with the highest (and lowest) incomes

How satisfied are people in Switzerland?

On a scale of 0 to 10, the mean score for satisfaction with current lifestyle in Switzerland was 8, compared to 7.9 in Austria, 7.2 in Italy, 7.0 in France and 6.5 in Germany. In Switzerland, life satisfaction has hardly changed since 2014 and increases with age, level of education and income.

The population is particularly satisfied in interpersonal areas such as living together, the working atmosphere and personal relationships. More than half of people aged 16 and over were very satisfied in these areas in 2022 (scores of 9 or 10). In contrast, only one in three people were very satisfied with their leisure time or personal financial situation.

A person works on a laptop.

People were generally happy with work in Switzerland. Image by StartupStockPhotos from Pixabay

The FSO measured the general standard of living on the basis of the median available disposable income, whereby the price level differences between the countries were corrected. In Switzerland, disposable income is 2.5 times as high as in Greece, 1.5 times as high as in Italy, 1.3 times as high as in France, 1.2 times as high as in Germany and 1.1 times as high as in Austria.

The FSO said: "Despite the high price level in Switzerland, the population's standard of living is therefore higher than in neighbouring countries and the majority of EU countries."

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But there are stark differences between living conditions in Switzerland, a country of around 9 million people. 

In 2022, 9.9 percent of Swiss residents had difficulty making ends meet at the end of the month and 4.9 percent of the population were affected by material and social deprivation, according to the survey. This means that they had to do without important goods, services and social activities such as new clothes, regular leisure activities or meetings with friends for financial reasons, were unable to pay their bills on time or couldn't pay for unexpected expenses.

As you would expect, those struggling to make ends meet have a significantly lower level of life satisfaction. In 2022, only one in nine of those facing financial issues were satisfied with their lives (10.9 percent vs. 37.9 percent of the total population). This group also stated that they felt discouraged or depressed most or all of the time (24.3 percent vs. 5.4 percent of the total population) and were less likely to be happy most or all of the time (37.1 percent vs. 76.6 percent of the total population).

How many people in Switzerland are in poverty?

In Switzerland, 8.2 percent of the population had low levels of income in 2022 - this corresponds to around 702,000 people. The poverty rate was therefore lower than in the previous year (8.7 percent), but the difference is not statistically significant, researchers said.

Furthermore, the price increases for electricity, heating costs and consumer goods since 2022 are not yet reflected in these figures. Although Switzerland has been shielded from severe inflation hikes seen elsewhere in Europe in the wake of Russia's war on Ukraine, consumer prices have still gone up.

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As in previous years, foreign nationals, people in single-parent households, people without further education and those in families or households where there are high levels of unemployment are frequently affected by income poverty. At 3.8 percent (144,000 people), the poverty rate among the working population was also slightly lower than in the previous year (4.2 percent), but again, researchers said that this development is not viewed as significant. 

In a previous study by the statistical office, the parts of Switzerland with the lowest incomes were found to be the cantons of Jura, Valais, and Ticino.

READ ALSO: Where are the poorest parts of Switzerland?

The poverty threshold comes from the guidelines of the Swiss Conference on Social Welfare (SKOS). In 2022 this amounted to an average of CHF 2,284 per month for an individual and CHF 4,010 per month for a family.

This income threshold is higher in Switzerland than elsewhere, but the cost of living is higher as well. 

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