The European Union has set the at-risk-of-poverty threshold at 60% of the median equivalised disposable income. Being at risk of poverty, therefore, means having an income that is significantly lower than that of the population as a whole, a situation that can lead to social exclusion. In 2019, the risk-of-poverty threshold was CHF 30,045 per annum for a single-person household and 15.7% of the population living in Switzerland was exposed to the risk of poverty, i.e. one in six.
Groups at risk of poverty
The risk of poverty is largely determined by family circumstances and the level of education. Single persons aged under 65 without children (15.7%) are 2.4 times more exposed to the risk of poverty than couples under 65 without children (6.6%). The latter are 1.5 times less at risk than families with two children (10.2%), 4.3 times less at risk than families with three children and more (28.3%) and 3.8 times less at risk than single parent households (25.1%).
Furthermore, people with tertiary level education are almost 3.5 times less likely to be at risk of poverty than those who completed no training after their compulsory schooling (8.8% compared with 30.8%).
65 year-olds and older are a special case: although they are particularly exposed to the risk of poverty (24.5%), especially if they live alone (29.3%), a significantly greater number of them use up their accumulated assets to pay for daily expenses (21.2% compared with 7.3% of people aged between 18 and 64 and 8.8% of 50-64 year-olds). But the use of accumulated wealth is not taken account of in equivalised disposable income and does not figure, therefore, in the estimation of risk of poverty.
For European comparisons, the reference year for data is 2019. Furthermore, imputed rent (which corresponds to the rental value of the property, after deduction of the dwelling costs actually paid) is not taken into account in the equivalised disposable income.
In European comparison, the Swiss at-risk-of-poverty threshold, expressed in terms of purchasing power without imputed rent, is among the highest in Europe, after Luxembourg.
As far as the at-risk-of-poverty rate in 2019 is concerned, at European level it varies between 24.5% (Montenegro) and 10.1% (Czechia). Switzerland (16.0% without imputed rent) is below the European average (EU-28: 16.8%). Among our neighbours, the at-risk-of-poverty rate is 13.3% (Austria), 13.6% (France), 14.8% (Germany) and 20.1% (Italy).
Links to the results and publications at European level are listed further below under "Further information" in the paragraph "Links".
Risk of poverty of employed persons
In 2019, 8.2% of all employed persons in Switzerland were at risk of poverty. This corresponds to 300,000 persons.
The income of employed persons is largely determined by the form of work and work conditions. The following groups were particularly often at risk of poverty despite being employed:
- persons who worked part-time
- self-employed persons
- persons with a temporary contract
- persons employed in small businesses
- persons with irregular working hours due to organisational reasons of the employer
No clear trend can be observed in the evolution of the at-risk-of-poverty rate of employed persons over time.
Special attention is given to the question of risk of poverty of employed persons. In fact, paid work is considered a way to reduce the risk of poverty.
To compare the situation of employed persons in Switzerland with other countries, the at-risk-of-poverty rate without imputed rent is used. Switzerland's rate of 7.7% puts it below the EU average of 9.2%.
It should be noted here that one of the highest at-risk-of-poverty thresholds in Europe is used due to the high median income in Switzerland.
AT=Austria, BE=Belgium, BG=Bulgaria, CY=Cyprus, CZ=Czechia, DE=Germany, DK=Denmark, EE=Estonia, EL=Greece, ES=Spain, FI=Finland, FR=France, HR=Croatia, HU=Hungary, IE=Ireland, IT=Italy, LT=Lithuania, LU=Luxembourg, LV=Latvia, MT=Malta, NL=Netherlands, PL=Poland, PT=Portugal, RO=Romania, SE=Sweden, SI=Slovenia, SK=Slovakia, UK=United Kingdom.
CH=Switzerland, ME=Montenegro, MK= North Macedonia, NO=Norway, RS=Serbia.
Statistical sources and concepts