Poverty in Switzerland

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Poverty in Switzerland refers to people who are living in relative poverty in Switzerland.

Historically, Switzerland has been a poor country, especially the Alpine region. From the 17th century, incipient industrialisation brought wealth to the cities, particularly to Zürich, but rural areas remained destitute well into the 19th century, causing the peasant war in 1653, and later forcing families to emigrate both to Russia and the New World.

In the 20th century, the economy of modern Switzerland came to establish itself among the world's most stable, and in terms of human development index (at 0.917) Switzerland ranks in the top five.

Income and wealth[edit]

In 2013 the mean household income in Switzerland was CHF 120,624 (c. USD 134,000 nominal, USD 101,000 PPP), the mean household income after social security, taxes and mandatory health insurance was CHF 85,560 (c. USD 95,000 nominal, USD 72,000 PPP).[1] The OECD lists Swiss household gross adjusted disposable income per capita USD 32,594 PPP for 2011.[2]

As of 2016, Switzerland had the highest average wealth per adult, at $561,900.[3]

This development was tied to the exchange rate between the US Dollar and the Swiss franc, which caused capital in Swiss francs to more than double its value in dollar terms during the 2000s and especially in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007–2008, without any direct increase in value in terms of domestic purchasing power.[4]

Switzerland has the comparatively high Gini coefficient of 0.8, similar to the US and Denmark, indicating unequal distribution.[5] The high average wealth is explained by a comparatively high number of individuals who are extremely wealthy; the median (50th percentile) wealth of a Swiss adult is five times lower than the average, at USD 100,900 (USD 70,000 PPP as of 2011).[6]


Homeless in Lausanne in 2019

Nevertheless, Switzerland has a significant number of working poor, estimated at 145,000 in 2015. This number is out of a total of approximately 570,000 people (or about 7% of the total population) living in poverty. This number shows a slight increase from 2014 when it was 6.6%.[7] In the same year, 8.9% of the population was making less than 50% of the median equivalised income (about 19,793, 24,041 SFr.), with 4.5% making less than 40% (€15,834, 19,232 SFr.). The median equivalised income is a number which half of the population makes more than, while half makes less. Because it uses the median it is less affected by the extremely rich.

Several groups continued to have the highest risk of poverty. They included those in a household where no one was gainfully employed (18.2% at risk of poverty), single adults living alone (12.5%), single parent households with children (12.5%) and those without any optional schooling (10.9%). Resident foreigners had a higher rate than Swiss citizens, with those from outside Europe having a poverty risk nearly twice that of citizens.[7]

Compared to neighboring countries[edit]

As of 2016, Switzerland has a lower rate of people making 50% of the median equivalised income (8.9%) than the European Union (10.9%), United Kingdom (9.9%) and Germany (9.7%). But a higher rate than countries such as Finland 4.9%), France (6.8%) and Austria (8.1%).[8] The following chart provides information on the percentage and total numbers of the total population at risk for poverty (making less than 50% of the median equivalised income), the employed who are at risk for poverty and the 50% level for each country in equivalent purchasing power.

By age[edit]

Those of retirement age (older than 65) had an above average poverty level (13.9%), especially if they lived alone (22.8%, see chart below). However, these high numbers are somewhat misleading because the poverty numbers don't include assets which they saved or purchased while working. Because those over 65 often have reserves, very few responded to the survey that they were going into debt or had a hard time making ends meet. The number of retirement age people who could afford an unexpected expense was almost half of the national average. In fact, only 1.9% of retirees were not able to pay their bills on time, compared to 9.3% of 18 to 64 year olds.[7]

By sex, language and national origin[edit]

By education level[edit]

By family type[edit]

Regional statistics[edit]

1.^ Percent of those 25 and older who have completed the listed education.
2.^ An index (50 is the national average) that attempts to quantifies status. Formula is (2.5 × % Tertiary education completed)−(2.0 × % Mandatory education only)+(% Management and skilled workers) − (% Unskilled workers) + (4 × % High income) − (2 × % Low income)
3.^ Ratio of workers in industries classed as High Tech or Knowledge-Intensive compared to national average (set to 1.0).

See also[edit]



  1. ^ "Haushaltseinkommen und -ausgaben 2013" Federal Statistical Office (Switzerland); exchange rate 0.90 in December 2013 (xe.com), PPP factor 1.322 as of 2013 (down from 1.851 in 2000) according to oecd.org
  2. ^ "National Accounts at a Glance 2014", OECD Publishing (2014), p. 66.
  3. ^ Global Wealth Report 2016. Credit Suisse. 2016.
  4. ^ Simon Bowers (19 October 2011), Franc's rise puts Swiss top of rich list "Swiss fortunes in 2011 have more than doubled since 2000 in dollar terms", The Guardian. CHF 500,000 in late 2007 corresponded to USD 403,000 (USD 252,000 PPP), in late 2011 to USD 540,000 (USD 380,000 PPP) and in 2015 to USD 510,000 (USD 400,000 PPP). Exchange rates: xe.com, PPP conversion: 1.601 (2007), 1.433 (2011), 1.275 (2015) oecd.org.
  5. ^ comparable to the United States, which also has a Gini coefficient close to 0.8, and a median wealth five times lower than average wealth. Switzerland's neighboring countries have Gini coefficients ranging between 0.6 and 0.73. See list of countries by distribution of wealth.
  6. ^ Tages Anzeiger, Das reichste Land der Welt (20 October 2011) reports 3,820 individuals with a wealth of USD 50 million or more, out of a total population of just above 8 million.
  7. ^ a b c "Income and living conditions (SILC) 2015: Poverty in Switzerland" (Press release). Neuchatel: Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO). 15 May 2017.
  8. ^ EuroStat retrieved 3 October 2017
  9. ^ Eurostat EU-SILC survey (ilc_li01, ilc_li02 & ilc_iw01) retrieved 16 November 2017
  10. ^ a b c d "Armut in der Schweiz: Aktualisierte Indikatoren 2015". Federal Statistical Office. Retrieved 4 October 2017.
  11. ^ Canton Portraits, Swiss Federal Statistical Office, retrieved 5 October 2017
  12. ^ Federal Statistical Office - Maps retrieved 5 October 2017

External links[edit]