The European Union has set the at-risk-of-poverty threshold at 60% of the median equivalised disposable income. Being at risk of poverty, therefore, means having an income that is significantly lower than that of the population as a whole, a situation that can lead to social exclusion. In 2016, the risk-of-poverty threshold was CHF 29,796 per annum for a single-person household and 14.7% of the population living in Switzerland was exposed to the risk of poverty, i.e. one in seven.
Groups at risk of poverty
The risk of poverty is largely determined by family circumstances and the level of education. Single persons aged under 65 without children (15.7%) are 2.8 times more exposed to the risk of poverty than couples under 65 without children (5.6%). The latter are 2 times less at risk than families with two children (11.0%), 3.8 times less at risk than families with three children and more (21.3%) and 4.5 times less at risk than single parent households (25.1%).
Furthermore, people with tertiary level education are almost 4 times less likely to be at risk of poverty than those who completed no training after their compulsory schooling (7.0% compared with 27.7%).
65 year-olds and older are a special case: although they are particularly exposed to the risk of poverty (22.5%), especially if they live alone (29.0%), a significantly greater number of them use up their accumulated assets to pay for daily expenses (21.6% compared with 6.8% of people aged between 18 and 64 and 9.1% of 50-64 year-olds). But the use of accumulated wealth is not taken account of in equivalised disposable income and does not figure, therefore, in the estimation of risk of poverty.
For European comparisons, the reference year for data is 2016. Furthermore, imputed rent (which corresponds to the rental value of the property, after deduction of the dwelling costs actually paid) is not taken into account in the equivalised disposable income.
In European comparison, the Swiss at-risk-of-poverty threshold, expressed in terms of purchasing power without imputed rent, is among the highest in Europe, after Norway and Luxembourg.
As far as the at-risk-of-poverty rate in 2016 is concerned, at European level it varies between 25.5% (Serbia) and 9.7% (Czech Republic). Switzerland (14.7% without imputed rent) is slightly below the European average (EU-28: 17.3%). Among our neighbours, the at-risk-of-poverty rate is 13.6% (France), 14.1% (Austria), 16.5% (Germany) and 20.6% (Italy).
Links to the results and publications at European level are listed further below under "Further information" in the paragraph "Links".
Risk of poverty of employed persons
In 2016, 7.8% of all employed persons in Switzerland were at risk of poverty. This corresponds to 290,000 persons.
The income of employed persons is largely determined by the form of work and work conditions. The following groups were particularly often at risk of poverty despite being employed:
- persons who worked for only part of the year
- persons who worked mainly part-time
- self-employed persons without employees
- persons with a temporary contract
- persons employed in the hotel and restaurant industry
- persons employed in small businesses
No clear trend can be observed in the evolution of the at-risk-of-poverty rate of employed persons over time.
Special attention is given to the question of risk of poverty of employed persons. In fact, paid work is considered a way to reduce the risk of poverty. Employed persons who are at risk of poverty are people aged 18 or over who had a full-time or part-time job for more than half of the calendar year before the interview and who live in a household that is considered to be at risk of poverty.
To compare the situation of employed persons in Switzerland with other countries, the at-risk-of-poverty rate without imputed rent is used. Switzerland's rate of 7.3% puts it below the EU average of 9.6%. It should be noted here that one of the highest at-risk-of-poverty thresholds in Europe is used due to the high median income in Switzerland.
Statistical sources and concepts