In 2016, around 273,000 people, 3.3% of the population, received welfare in Switzerland. The number (not the rate) was 2.9% higher than the year before and 15.7% higher than 5 years earlier when the rate was 3.0%.
Rates of those receiving government aid varied significantly by canton, ranging from 0.8% in Appenzell Innerrhoden to 7.4% in Neuchâtel. Other cantons with higher than average rates include: Basel-City (6.3%), Geneva (5.7%), Vaud (4.9%) and Bern (4.2%). Zurich’s rate (3.2%) was slightly below the national average.
The highest rates were among foreigners (6.3%), who made up 58% of all beneficiaries. Certain groups, such as those from Africa (31%), South America (13%) and Asia (12%), registered the highest rates. The rate for people from neighbouring countries (2.7%) was below the headline figure of 3.3%.
In terms of household make up, the highest rate (22%) was for homes comprised of one adult and one or more children. Next were households with two unmarried adults and children (8%). Married couples with no children at home were the least likely to be on welfare, registering less than 1%.
Asylum seekers and refugees made up a sizable percentage of those on welfare. 9% of the total were refugees and 20% were asylum seekers. The largest national groups among asylum seekers were from Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan. Among refugees, Eritreans were the largest group making up 53% of the total, followed by Syrians (17%).
The Swiss government is working on measures to get more of these people integrated into the workforce to reduce pressure on the welfare system.
The Federal Statistical Office report was published in December 2017.