Between 2014 and 2015 the number of solo parents rose 11,500 (+5.6%) bringing the total to 218,000. Single parent families made up 6% of Swiss households in 2015, according to statistics released this week. The percentages vary significantly by canton.
The cantons with the highest rates of of solo mums and dads are Geneva (8.7%), Neuchâtel (8.0%), Ticino (8.0%), Jura (7.4%) and Vaud (7.2%).
At the other end of the scale were the cantons of Uri (3.6%), Obwalden (3.9%), Nidwalden (4.1%), Appenzell-Ausserrhoden (4.6%), and Schwyz (4.7%). Geneva’s rate is more than double the three lowest and 45% above the Swiss average of 6.0%.
Divorce and religion
High rates of lone-parent households, with some exceptions, correlate with divorce rates. Geneva (2.4), Neuchâtel (2.5), and Vaud (2.3) have Switzerland’s highest divorce rates, and rank first, second and fifth for solo parents.
Despite having high solo-parent rates, Ticino (1.9) and Jura (2.1) have low or average divorce rates. Both Jura (67%) and Ticino (68%) have Catholic majorities, unlike Geneva (35%), Vaud (30%), and Neuchâtel (23%), where Catholics are a minority. This might explain their lower rates of divorce – perhaps they live apart and stay married.
Four of the cantons with the lowest rates of single parent households all have below average divorce rates: Uri (1.33), Obwalden (1.68), Nidwalden (1.73), and Schwyz (1.9). Appenzell-Ausserrhoden (2.2) is the only exception, Again religion might account for this exception. Appenzell-Ausserrhoden is the only one of these five without a Catholic majority. Uri (79%), Obwalden (73%), Nidwalden (66%), and Schwyz (62%) are all predominantly Catholic. Only 29% of the population of Appenzell-Ausserrhoden is Catholic.
Another driver of high solo parent rates could be the percentage of foreigners. At a national level, foreigners married to foreigners and foreigners married to Swiss are more likely to get divorced. Geneva has the highest rate of solo parents (8.7%) and the highest percentage of foreigners (41%). Vaud (34%) and Ticino (28%), with the third and fourth highest percentage of foreigners, also fit this correlation. Jura is the main exception with the 4th highest percentage of solo parents (7.4%), despite the 23rd lowest percentage of foreigners (14%).
At the other end of the scale is Uri with 12% foreigners and a divorce rate of 3.2%. The other four lowest, Obwalden, Nidwalden, Appenzell-Ausserrhoden, Schwyz, all rank near the bottom in terms of foreign population percentages: Obwalden (15%), Nidwalden (14%), Appenzell-Ausserrhoden (16%), Schwyz (20%).
Zug and Zurich buck this connection a bit. Ranked 5th (27%) and 6th (26%) in terms of percentage of foreign residents they rank only 22nd and 18th in terms of solo parents.
Switzerland’s linguistic divide is apparent in these numbers too. Only two German-speaking cantons have solo-parent percentages above the average: Basel-Landschaft (6.5%) and Glarus (6.6%). The Italian and French speaking cantons are all above the average. Perhaps, like with higher rates of unemployment, there is also a cultural element.