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Over eight percent of the Swiss population are poor, and almost three and a half percent receive social assistance. In rich Switzerland, the poor are forced to find luxury solutions. It is particularly difficult for them to make ends meet.

This content was published on August 13, 2019 - 11:00 am

Switzerland is one of the richest countries in the world: According to the Credit Suisse External Link asset report, an adult owns an average of 538,617 francs. But wealth and income are unevenly distributed.

How are those who have little?

"Small incomes in Switzerland are under a lot of pressure," says Andrea Schmid-Fischer, President of the Swiss Budget Advisory Association. The lower middle class is also threatening to slide. Between 2016 and 2017, poverty increased by almost 10 percent in Switzerland.

Social welfare safety net

Anyone who fails through all the meshes receives social assistance in Switzerland. This is not a matter of course in all countriesExternal link. However, if you get your money back and live in good circumstances, you have to repay the money withdrawn.

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The cost of living is rising while wages are stagnating. According to a survey by the US asset manager BlackRockExterner Link, their finances are now the number one stress factor for 55% of Swiss people.

Having children, divorce and retirement, in particular, put a budget in trouble. Those who have no training are often poor in Switzerland.

Whining at a high level?

However, poverty is relative. This can be seen in country comparisons.

In SwitzerlandExterner Link is considered to be poor anyone who lives as an individual on less than CHF 2,259 or as a family of four on less than CHF 3,990 per month. In Russia, on the other hand, 12% of the population have less than 11,163 rubles (174 francs) a month at their disposal.

So are we complaining at a high level in Switzerland?

Of course, the expenditure in Switzerland is higher than in Russia and comparisons are therefore always difficult. So let's look at an average budget.

"Taxes, rent and housing costs are the classic high fixed costs. With low incomes, there is not much left for other expenses," says Schmid-Fischer. According to figures from the Federal External Link, households with a gross income of less than CHF 5,000 cannot put any money aside.

This is mainly a problem because in Switzerland you can face very high expenses at any time, which you have to pay yourself. For example, dentists and opticians are not covered by health insurance, glasses, hearing aids and certain medications have to be paid for by patients themselves.

Poor people forced to find luxury solutions

Because many Swiss are rich, it is particularly difficult for the poor. Not only socially, but the rich also force the poor to find luxury solutions.

Take health insurance as an example: Here, the poor have to co-finance services that seem dispensable with constantly rising premiums for the compulsory basic insurance. Since a referendum, basic insurance has also covered homeopathy and alternative treatments such as acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine massages and other wellness services.

Minimum subsistence levels in Switzerland

There are different subsistence levels in Switzerland.

If you have debts, you stay with housing and health insurance subsistence level under debt enforcement law from 1200 francs per month.

Who of the social care lives, as an individual receives a basic requirement of 986 francs per month, depending on the canton. That has to be enough for food, clothes, household chores, personal hygiene, traffic and communication. Rent, health insurance and health costs are covered separately.

At Pensioners with supplementary benefits, a general life requirement of 1,621 francs is assumed.

Asylum seekers receive CHF 290 per month if you live in a center. Otherwise, depending on the canton, around 485 francs per month.

For comparison: the Median wage is around 6500 francs gross per month in Switzerland.

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Complications after cosmetic surgery are also covered. And more and more hospitals only have single rooms or a maximum of two beds instead of cheap multi-bed rooms.

Assura health insurance is of the opinion that "comfort services" are increasingly being paid for at the expense of the general public. The associations of the health insurers sant├ęsuisse and Curafutura also share the assessment that the basic insurance is constantly being expanded to include benefits.

"We are particularly concerned about unnecessary services that do not lead to any improvement for the patient or can even be harmful," says Christophe Kaempf from sant├ęsuisse. "The federal government estimates the amount of unnecessary services to be 20%."

Another example: Because real estate is popular investment properties in Switzerland, luxury construction is going on. It is almost impossible to find modest and cheap accommodation.

In Switzerland, you cannot squeeze five people into a two-room apartment - that is considered overuse.

There are also no trailer parks like in the USA. Housing costs for the lower and middle classes are probably the biggest item in the budget.

But what does it mean in concrete terms to live on the subsistence level in Switzerland? I'm trying out for a month. Read how I feel about it in the blog.

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