On 2 May 2023, Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office published its annual report on income, poverty and living conditions. In 2021, 448,000 people, 5.2% of the population, refrained from buying goods, services and social activities for financial reasons, something described as material and social deprivation. And Switzerland’s poverty rate was 8.7%. At the same time, the overall standard of living in Switzerland remains one of the highest in Europe.
Switzerland’s rate of material and social deprivation (5.2%) was low compared to the EU average (11.9%). Rates were significantly higher in Germany (9.0%), Italy (11.3%) and France (11.4%). Austria (4.4%) was the only neighbouring nation with a lower rate than Switzerland. In Europe, Romania (34.5%) had the highest rate.
The most common type of deprivation in Switzerland was the impossibility of being able to pay unexpected expenses of CHF 2,500 within a month. Almost a fifth (18.9%) of Switzerland’s population lived in a household unable to do so. In addition, 7.9% had to forgo regular leisure activities and 3.0% could not afford to meet for food or a drink to see friends or family at least once a month.
In 2021, 8.7% of the population (around 745,000 people) in Switzerland were considered poor. Income of less than CHF 2,289 (US$ 2,572) per month for a single person and below CHF 3,989 (US$ 4,482) for two adults with two children is considered poor in Switzerland – these figures are after compulsory health insurance payments and social and income taxes.
As in previous years, foreigners, people living alone, people in single-parent households, people without post-compulsory education and people in households not participating in the labor market were particularly hard hit by income poverty. The poverty rate was far lower among the working population (4.2%).
Welfare transfers had a significant impact on reducing poverty, roughly halving the overall rate. For single parent households, welfare payments reduced the poverty rate from around 45% to 20%.
Cost adjusted annual median incomes in Switzerland remained higher than nearly all of the rest of Europe. After adjusting for purchasing power, only Luxembourg (32,100) has a higher annual median income than Switzerland (26,400). The EU average was 18,900 – units are Purchasing Power Standard (PPS), an artificial comparative measure designed to factor out local cost differences.