Even before high inflation hit people’s pockets many Swiss households were over extended. In 2020, almost one in six residents lived in a household with debt arrears, according to data released this week by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).
The most common overdue payments were taxes (7.5%), health insurance premiums (5.5%), phone bills (4.1%), utility bills (3.4%), credit cards and other loans (2.7%) and rent or mortgage payments (2.3%). In addition, 6.5% of the population was behind on the payment of other bills not included in these categories.
Households with outstanding tax payments (7.5%) were more likely to be 18-24 years old (11.9%), be from southern Europe (12.0%), have only high school education (10.2%) or be from French-speaking Switzerland (11.8%). That taxes are generally higher in French-speaking Switzerland may have some impact on this. Unsurprisingly, employment status had a big impact. 8.2% of those in active employment had unpaid debts compared to 18.7% of the unemployed.
Among those with outstanding payments, the most common reasons for not being able to pay were the purchase of a car (18.9%), taking on a mortgage for a second home (16.0%) and daily expenses (6.0%).
15.5% of the population lived in a household with a vehicle lease. Vehicle leases are often associated with debt problems. They allow people to drive cars they may not otherwise be able to afford by reducing the initial cost. However, the overall cost is higher and merely pushed out into the future.
With the onset of inflation, which was 3.4% over the year to the end of June 2020, households are likely to now have more debt problems that they did in 2020 when this survey was done.