The economic and sociodemographic context describes the main structural changes underway that affect people’s living conditions and influence the composition of the group of persons at risk of social exclusion.
Economic activity is the primary guarantor of job creation, salary production and household consumption levels. However, a prosperous economy does not necessarily mean access to a decent income for all: measures of income inequality make it possible to understand whether or not this income is distributed equally. Through social transfers state intervention plays an important part in the redistribution of resources (taxes, social contributions, pensions, and social benefits).
The real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita has increased by over 28% during the past 24 years, i.e. an average growth rate of 1.1% per year. This development has not been linear: long periods of growth have been contrasted with brief periods of recession. As a result of the Covid 19 pandemic, we have a similar sharp decline in 2020 as during the international financial crisis in 2009.
The Gini coefficient is a measure of inequality that takes into account the entire income distribution in the population. It shows the extent of inequality on a scale from 0 (perfect equality: everyone has the same income) to 1 (maximum inequality: one person has all the income).
The Gini coefficients of the different income components show that income before government transfers (primary equivalised income) is distributed clearly more unequally in the total population than income after transfers (disposable equivalised income). This illustrates that the unequal distribution of income earned on the (labour and capital) market is reduced by social transfers.
The development of the Gini coefficients from 1998 to 2014 shows no substantial change globally considered and taking into account the somewhat wide confidence intervals. Only a slight trend increase in inequality can be observed in disposable equivalised income in the years 2003 to 2007 and 2009 to 2013. No clear developments can be discerned between 2015 and 2019 either. The trends are similar for primary equivalised income.
For most people, access to the labour market enables them to receive a salary. However, employment does not only guarantee an income, it also entitles one to social security benefits. Employment also remains a way to integrate into society and to achieve personal fulfilment. In contrast, long-term and unwanted exclusion from the labour market leads to a decline in or loss of income, social security gaps and an inability to adequately plan for the future.
In 2021, foreign nationals were more often unemployed (8.7%) than Swiss nationals (3.7%). Unemployment also more often affects young people aged between 15 and 24 years (8.8%) and persons without a post-compulsory education (9.6%).
Changes within the permanent resident population result in changes within the age groups and to the total dependency ratio between persons from different age groups. They also alter the nationality groups within the population.
At the end of 2021, the population in Switzerland was over 8.7 million. A quarter of these were foreign nationals and 82.7% were European. The majority were from the European Union. Citizens from other continents accounted for 17.3% of the foreign population.
In 1996, among Swiss nationals there were 29 older people for 100 persons of working age compared with only 7 among foreign nationals. In 2021, this old-age dependency ratio was 40 among Swiss nationals and 11 among foreign nationals.
Marital behaviour, living together, starting a family or even separation can change dependency at family level.
In 2020, single-person households accounted for more than a third of households in Switzerland, followed by couples without children, and family households. The vast majority of couples with children are married. Lone parents with children aged under 25 account for 4.7% of households.
Statistical sources and concepts
ContactFederal Statistical Office Section Social Welfare
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