A recent publication by the Swiss federal statistics office shows there were around 73,000 children suffering from poverty in Switzerland in 2014. Poverty is defined by depravation calculated based on responses to a list of 18 questions1. These responses are used to determine actual poverty and the risk of poverty. Overall Swiss child poverty rates for those between 1 and 17 years old in 2014 were 5.0% with a total of 16% at risk of poverty.
For most deprived children in Switzerland, poverty is defined by five questions. Does your household have: enough money to replace furniture (13% don’t), an ability to avoid late payments (11.6% don’t), an annual week away (5.2% don’t), money to spend on regular leisure activites (5% don’t), and access to a private car (4.6% don’t).
Families where both parents worked had the lowest child poverty rates of 1.8%. The rate climbed steeply to 6.0% among single income families and rose to 19.5% among families where neither parent worked. The same link was seen in the risk of child poverty. Children in double income families were exposed to a 8.9% risk, while single income ones ran an 18.6% risk, and those where no parent worked ran a 44.7% risk.
Another factor associated with poverty among children was the level of education of the parents. Families where neither parent had a post school qualification had a child poverty rate of 9.2%, compared to 6.6% where at least one parent had vocational training, and 2.8% among families where at least one parent had a tertiary education.
The study compares the risk of child poverty of those born to foreign parents (18.2%) to those born to Swiss parents (12.4%). Here Switzerland had one of the smallest differences (5.8%), compared to other European countries.
In Sweden, Greece and Spain, substantially higher percentages of children born to foreign parents were at risk of poverty than those of their citizens. In Sweden the kids of foreigners were exposed to a 48.7% risk of poverty, compared to 11.5% for Swedes -> + 38.6%. Greece showed a similar delta: 56.9% for foreigners, 19.9% for Greeks -> +37%, as did Spain: 59.3% for foreigners, 24.7% for Spanish ->+34.6%. The four countries with the lowest differences were Ireland (16.5% vs 16.7% -> -0.2%), the Netherlands (13.4% vs 13.5% -> -0.1%), the UK (23.9% vs 18.8% ->5.1%) and Switzerland (18.2% vs 12.4% -> 5.8%).
Overall Switzerland came 8th lowest out of 34 European countries with 14.8% at risk of child poverty. The highest risk was in Romania (39.4%). Other countries with high child poverty risk rates were Bulgaria (31.7%), Spain (30.5%), Serbia (29.7%), Macedonia (29%), Portugal (25.6%), Greece (25.5%), Luxembourg (25.4%), Italy (25.1%), Hungary (25%) and Lithuania (24.3%). Countries with the lowest overall risk rates were Denmark (9.2%), Iceland (10%), Norway (10.2%), Finland (10.9%), Cyprus (12.8%), Netherlands (13.7%), Czech Republic (14.7%), Switzerland (14.8%) and Germany (15.1%).
1The eighteen questions used to determine child poverty in Switzerland:
- Can you afford to replace old furniture?
- Can you avoid late payments?
- Do you regularly pay for recreational activities?
- Do you go away on holiday for at least one week per year?
- Do you sometimes buy new clothes?
- Do you celebrate special events?
- Do you go on paid-for school outings?
- Do you have at least one full meal a day?
- Does your family have a private car?
- Do you have a place to study at home?
- Do you have a computer at home?
- Do you have books you can read?
- Do you have at least one indoor toy?
- Do you sometimes invite friends to come and play or share a meal?
- Do you have at least one outdoor toy?
- Is your house warm enough?
- Do you have fruit and vegetables at least once a day?
- Do you have two pairs of shoes the right size and a pair that can be used in the snow and rain?
25.3% of children between 1 and 15 years of age reported depravation in one of the eighteen areas above, 12.9% in at least two, 6.9% in at least three and 3.8% in at least four. The most common depravation areas were: not having enough money to replace furniture (13%), an inability to avoid late payments (11.6%), no annual week away (5.2%), no regular expenditure on leisure (5.0%) no private car (4.6%), and no where suitable to study at home (2.8%). In every other area rates were 2% or less. Almost no children lacked fruit and vegetables (0.5%), shoes (0.5%), having friends over to play (0.9%), books (0.9%), or outdoor toys (0.8%). Percentages lacking one full meal a day (1.3%), access to a home computer (1.4%), inside toys (1.1%), paid school outings (1.1%) and new clothes (1.4%) were also quite low.
Speaking to Le Matin, Caritas said Switzerland invests very little to help families. Child care places are two or three times as expensive in Switzerland as they are in neighbouring countries.