The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic was unequal, hitting low-income households far harder than those on high incomes, according to a study published by the KOF Swiss Economic Institute at ETH Zurich.
Infection rates rise with income
More people in the higher income range reported being infected with Covid-19 than those in lower income groups. Among those with incomes below CHF 4,000 (US$ 4,400), 4% said they had tested positive and a further 8% reported symptoms but no positive test. However, in households with incomes above CHF 16,000, (US$ 17,600) 8% had tested positive and a further 8% reported symptoms.
Income down most at bottom
The study found that those with household incomes of less than CHF 4,000 a month had seen income drop by an average of 20% since the start of the pandemic. While households earning incomes of more than CHF 16,000 had experienced an average fall of 8%.
Spending down for different reasons
Households on high or very high incomes reduced their spending the most (-16%) while the average fall in spending among low-income households (-12%) was more muted.
However, the reasons for lower spending were very different. Among those with incomes below CHF 4,000, 11% had cut spending because they had less to spend. And, 39% of this group reported dipping into savings. 50% of households earning more than CHF 16,000 reported spending less, however the main reason for lower spending in this group was because there were fewer opportunities to spend.
Among households earning less than CHF 4,000, 11% reported going into debt to cover current expenses. For those earning over CHF 10,000, the percentage was 2%.
Mental health and trust in politics down
The study looked beyond economics asking questions on mental health and trust in politics. Lower income households reported more significant declines in mental health and trust in politics than than wealthier ones. Among household with incomes under CHF 4,000, 6% reported poor or very poor mental health. Above income of CHF 6,000, this same figure fell to around 2%. Unsurprisingly, people affected by unemployment reported the largest fall in mental wellbeing.
Trust in the Swiss Federal Council to manage the coronavirus crisis has dropped significantly over time. Early on in the pandemic, 17% of respondents said they had little or very little trust in the Federal Council to manage the situation. By October 2020, the figure had dropped to 40%, where it has remained, with a greater fall reported among low income households.
Finally, the study looked at vaccine reluctance. 16% of those in the highest income bracket said they would not vaccinate, a percentage that rose to 31% among the lowest income group.
The study surveyed 202,516 people across Switzerland from March 2020 until January 2021.