In 2017, Switzerland spent CHF 8.3 billion on welfare. This comes out at between CHF 397 (Nidwalden) and CHF 2,029 (Basel-City) per person depending on the canton of residence. The figures were CHF 1,705 in Geneva, CHF 1,454 in Zurich and CHF 1,308 in Vaud – click here for figures for other cantons.
The high cost of welfare and the disproportionally high percentage of certain groups of foreigners on welfare have helped to make it a hot political subject.
In 2018, the percentages of people from Asia (12%), South America (13%) and Africa (29%) on welfare were far higher than the rates for Swiss citizens (2%) and nationals from the EU-28 (3%). Rates for nationals from North America (1%) and Oceana (1%) were even lower.
The government has decided to take aim at nationals from beyond the EU-28 and EFTA, known as third states. This group makes up 8% of Switzerland’s population but 33% of those on welfare.
Switzerland’s Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP), along with a team of experts, has been looking at the issue. On 15 January 2020, it announced that it would implement three measures, which require no legislation, and look more deeply at three others between now and the end of next February.
The three measures to be implemented include the Federal Statistical Office regularly analysing social welfare payments to nationals from third states, subjecting extensions of residence permits held by nationals from third states to approval by State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), and the federal government working with cantons to harmonise matters related to welfare.
The three measures under review include tightening up the conditions required for granting residence permits, making it easier to remove residence permits from those dependant on welfare, and restricting welfare payments during the first three years of residence in Switzerland.