In 2017, 18.9% of Switzerland’s population lived in a household with outstanding debt repayments, a percentage that has rose from 17.7% over the proceeding 4 years.
The most common forms of outstanding debts were taxes, health insurance premiums and phone bills. 9.9% of households had outstanding tax payments, 7.3% owed health insurance money and 5.2% had an outstanding telecommunications bill.
The most common reason for going into debt was to buy a car, a rapidly depreciating asset. 23.3% of the population had car debts in 2017, more than the 15.7% who had borrowed money to buy a home.
The most likely people to be in a household with debt payment arrears were the poorly educated (26.3%), the unemployed (43.7%) and households with one parent (36%).
There was a difference between men (19.4%) and women (18.4%) and a big difference between German (15.7%), French (27.3%) and Italian speakers (21.8%).
There were also marked differences between foreigners. Those from northern Europe (14.2%) were far less likely to be in a household with an outstanding debt payment than those from southern Europe (27.9%) and those from the rest of the world (37.8%). Swiss (15.8%) were more likely to be in a household with outstanding payments than foreigners from northern Europe.
The age group the least likely to have outstanding payments was those 65 and over (5.8%), and the most likely age group was 18-24 (27%).
More of Switzerland’s population is borrowing. In 2013, 31.8% of the population lived in a household with at least one form of debt. By 2017, the same percentage had risen to 34.6%.
Impulse buying could be one factor behind the growing number of people with unmanageable debts. 10% of 18-24 year olds admitted to impulse buying compared to 3.8% of those 65 and above. This percentage was noticeably high among single parent families with young children (12%). Impulse buying also correlated with regional differences. 10% of those 16 and above in French-speaking Switzerland admitted to impulse buying compared to 4.5% of the same group in German-speaking Switzerland.