Recipients of social benefits

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 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.

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 between 2006 and 2021, 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 2020 was 320 793 and falls to 307 391 in 2021.

Further information


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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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