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Poverty in Switzerland rises 10% in a year 

Although Switzerland is rich, poverty within the country continues to rise, says a report released on Tuesday.  

Poverty affected 675,000 people including 100,000 children in 2017, a 10% increase on the previous year, according to the report (in French) by the non-governmental organisation Caritas

In 2014, poverty affected 6.7% of the population in Switzerland, but this has risen steadily to 8% in 2017. The rise comes despite a healthy economy and an unemployment rate (2.6%) down to its lowest level for ten years.  

But in 2018 there were 35,000 unemployed people who had used up their unemployment insurance benefits, a figure that has stabilized at a high level, says Caritas. There were also 360,000 people who would have liked to work more but could not find a suitable opportunity.    

This affects mostly women, who are three times more likely to work part-time than men. As a consequence, women’s retirement pensions are on average 37% lower than those of men.  

Health insurance premiums are also eating into people’s incomes. They have more than doubled in the last 20 years, while salaries have only increased 14% in real terms over the same period. Caritas reports that in most cantons people pay an average of 15% to 18% of their income in health insurance premiums, much higher than a ceiling of 8% originally set by the government.  

It found that in most towns the risk of dependence on social assistance payments increases strongly from as young as 46. The risk has increased most sharply for elderly people.  

In light of increasing poverty, Caritas calls for reforms of the social assistance system to provide a better safety net.