These rates are among the main indicators of the Statistics on social assistance recipients. They provide a general context for poverty in Switzerland.
Note: The “Household rate (supported by social assistance)” indicator is currently unavailable. Results will be published on this page.
In 2019, the social assistance rate in Switzerland was 3.2%. This rate was 2.5% for persons born in Switzerland and 4.9% for persons born abroad. However, clear differences can be seen between persons born in Switzerland. There is a difference of 6.8 percentage points between Swiss nationals and foreign nationals born in Switzerland, with rates of 2.0% and 8.8% respectively. The difference between Swiss nationals and foreign nationals born abroad is 1.8 percentage points.
From 2010 to 2019, the rate of social assistance recipients rose slightly in the total population (+0.2 percentage point). From 2012 to 2019, the greatest increase can be observed among foreign nationals born in Switzerland. The social assistance rate in this population group rose by 0.9 percentage point over this period of time.
Compared to the previous year, however, the social assistance rate declined in most population groups in 2019, with the exception of foreign nationals born abroad for whom it has slightly increased.
The lowest social assistance rate of foreign nationals is observed in the cantons of Nidwalden and Thurgau (3.0% and 2.5%) and the highest in the canton of Neuchâtel and Bern (12.0% and 10.8%). However, if one looks at the ratio between the social assistance rate of foreign nationals and that of Swiss nationals, it can be seen that the cantons of Ticino and Geneva have the lowest ratios (1: 1.6 and 1: 1.5). The greatest differences are found in the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Uri (1: 17.8 and 1: 10.7).
Among persons born in Switzerland, the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Uri also show the greatest differences between Swiss and foreign nationals (1: 37.6 and 1: 22.1). The cantons of Basel-Stadt and Ticino have the smallest differences (1: 2.6 and 1: 2.4). For persons born abroad, the differences between foreign and Swiss nationals are generally smaller. Uri and Appenzell Innerrhoden show the largest differences (difference of 20 and 34 percentage points).
In the Swiss social protection system, social assistance is seen as a last resort. It is granted on a needs basis in situations not covered by social insurance benefits and includes all assistance benefits and basic care aimed at providing people in need with the basic means of subsistence. Social assistance in the narrow sense covers individual help and financial assistance. It ensures that people’s basic needs are met, fostering their individual and financial independence as well as their social and professional integration. It helps people to overcome temporary crises and in this respect is the last social safety net. In general, it is not intended to cover risks of a structural nature. Social assistance comes under the responsibility of the cantons. The Confederation is only responsible for social assistance in the context of asylum, refugees and assistance to Swiss citizens abroad. Each canton has its own social assistance legislation that governs all cantonal and communal social assistance.
The social assistance rate (rate of recipients of social assistance in the narrow sense) expresses the ratio between the number of people receiving at least one social assistance benefit in the year and the permanent resident population according to STATPOP of the previous year (Population and Household Statistics). The Statistics on social assistance recipients also include data on people receiving assistance on a temporary basis. These are temporarily admitted people who have been living in Switzerland for more than seven years, such as temporarily admitted refugees who have been in Switzerland for more than seven years.