The number of people living in relative poverty in Switzerland is on the increase, but it is still below the European average, according to the latest report on living conditions in the alpine country. The survey for 2015, released on Monday by the Swiss statistics office (BFS), revealed that 570,000, seven out of 100 people, were living in poverty.
The BFS defines poverty as being unable to pay for the “goods and services necessary for a socially integrated life” which in 2015 applied to those with a monthly income below 2,239 francs for a single person or 3,984 for two adults and two children.
Groups with higher than average rates of poverty included people living alone, one-parent families, those without further education and people living in a home where no one works, the BFS said in a statement.
In 2015 Switzerland’s poverty risk rate was 15.6%, below the EU average of 17.3 percent. However, the rate for non-European foreign residents was also higher than the national average, at 11.7%.
The groups most affected were persons living alone or in single parent households with minor children, persons with no postcompulsory education and those living in households where no-one works, the report said.
While the rate of poverty was higher among the unemployed (13.6 percent) than the employed (3.9 percent), nevertheless some 145,000 employed people were living below the specified income threshold in 2015.
For the purposes of international comparison the study also analyzed the rate of ‘poverty risk’ in Switzerland, meaning those people who earn considerably less than the national average.
The European Union considers people to be at ‘poverty risk’ if they have a disposable income that is 60 percent of their country’s median salary or less.
The church charity Caritas says the latest figures are shocking but unsurprising. It says the national government had recognised the need to act in 2014, but cantonal and municipal authorities, under pressure to implement spending cuts, had reduced welfare payments or programmes to prevent poverty.
In Switzerland last June, a referendum on a universal basic income that would have given each adult Swiss citizen US$2,500 per month was refused by the vast majority (76.9%) of the voting public overall.
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