Recipients of social benefits

In 2019, 9.5% of the population received benefits from social assistance in the broader sense.

  • 47.1% of these people received supplementary benefits to OASI/IV,
  • 33.7% received support from economic social assistance, also known as social assistance in the narrow sense, 
  • 19.2% 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.

Social assistance in the broader sense is composed of financial social assistance benefits and means-tested social benefits. The latter 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. However, other benefits are granted differently depending on the canton.

The social assistance rate in the broader sense rose from 8.9% in 2006 (661 500 recipients) to 9.5% in 2019 (812 500 recipients). This represents almost one in ten people.

During the same period, the economic social assistance rate (social assistance in the narrow sense) remained quite stable (3.2% in 2019). The number of recipients, however, rose from 245 200 in 2006 to 271 400 in 2019. As the population grew at the same time, the economic social assistance rate remained stable.

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 2016 was 342 700 and falls to 339 400 in 2018.

Further information


Press Releases


Related topics

Statistical sources and concepts

On this topic

Social benefits before social assistance

Key indicators on recipients of benefits preceding social assistance

Financial social assistance

Key indicators on social assistance recipients

Asylum seekers

Key indicators on recipients of financial social assistance in the context of asylum


Key indicators on recipients of social assistance in the context of refugees


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