In 2021, 9.3% of the population received means-tested social benefits for poverty reduction (social assistance in the broader sense).
48.6% of these people received supplementary benefits to OASI/IV,
33.1% received support from economic social assistance, also known as social assistance in the narrow sense,
18.3% obtained other benefits such as family support (e.g. maternity allowances, supplementary benefits for families), maintenance advances, housing benefits, old-age and disability support and unemployment support.
Means-tested social benefits for poverty reduction are composed of financial social assistance benefits and other means-tested social benefits. The first is only granted if the other social benefits earlier on in the system prove to be insufficient to cover financial needs.
All cantons grant financial social assistance, maintenance advances and supplementary benefits to OASI/IV. The other benefits are granted differently depending on the canton.
Means-tested social benefits for poverty reduction are also called social assistance in the broader sense. They include means-tested financial social benefits paid by the cantons to relieve poverty. These benefits are surveyed and described in the inventory of social assistance in the broader sense. To be included in social assistance in the broader sense, benefits have to meet certain criteria and have to be:
- Direct, i.e. supporting a person
- Based on cantonal legislation
- Financial, in the form of a general support allowance
- Intended to relieve poverty
Guaranteed as long as the recipient remains entitled.
The rate of means-tested social benefits for poverty reduction (social assistance in the broader sense) rose from 8.9% in 2006 to 9.3% in 2021. Although the number of recipients increased the economic social assistance rate (social assistance in the narrow sense) remained quite stable during this period. This was due to the simultaneous population growth.
Social assistance by residence status of recipients
In these evaluation, social assistance recipients are counted only once according to their most recent residence status.
Swiss nationals and foreign nationals with a permanent residence permit or an annual residence permit account for around three-quarters of social assistance recipients. The remaining quarter is mainly made up of refugees, provisionally admitted persons or asylum seekers. The total number of people receiving social assistance in Switzerland in 2021 was 307 391 and falls to 298 842 in 2022.