In 2017, 9.5% of the population received benefits from social assistance in the broader sense.
45.7% of these people received supplementary benefits to OASI/IV,
35.0% received support from economic social assistance, also known as social assistance in the narrow sense,
19.3% 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.
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.
Social assistance in the broader sense includes 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 social assistance rate in the broader sense rose from 8.9% in 2006 (661 532 recipients) to 9.5% in 2017 (801 793 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 (3.3% in 2017). The number of recipients, however, rose from 245 156 in 2006 to 278 345 in 2017. As the population grew at the same time, the economic social assistance rate remained stable.
Social assistance by residence status of recipients
In the following 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 337 500 in 2018.