Non-Swiss pensioners at higher risk of poverty than locals

Non-Swiss pensioners at higher risk of poverty than locals

As the cost of living continues to rise, a new study from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) has revealed that those claiming pensions in Switzerland are at a higher risk of falling into poverty. Of those in retirement, the study found that expats and internationals are nearly twice as likely to be impoverished than Swiss citizens.

Swiss pensioners are most vulnerable to price rises

According to the findings, reported in Blick, as the cost of health insurance, renting a house or apartment, energy and food continue to rise, extra pressure is being put on those who live on or below the poverty line, especially pensioners. The FSO noted that in many cases, people who rely on social security programmes lack the necessary savings to compensate for the higher prices in the long term.

While most retirees rate their financial situation as positive, they remain one of the groups most at risk of falling into poverty. The government noted that rates of poverty increase the older people get, to the point that one in five people over 75 years old are considered to be at or below the poverty line - in 2021, the FSO defined the Swiss poverty line as receiving 2.289 francs a month or less for a single person, or 3.989 francs a month or less for two adults with two children.

Elderly expats and internationals more likely to become impoverished

The risk of falling into poverty was most acute among expats and internationals. According to the FSO, 26,4 percent of retirees with residence permits live below the poverty line, a rate nearly twice that of Swiss citizens. Women were also seen to be most at risk - one in five retired women live in poverty, compared to one in eight men.

Poverty rates among the elderly also varied by level of education. Graduates of primary and secondary schools were found to be “generally poorer” and more than twice as likely to fall into poverty in old age compared to graduates of universities.

Interestingly, the FSO noted that single people are far more likely to be impoverished in old age compared to couples, explaining that elderly couples with no children are “rarely” confronted with financial difficulties. Finally, they found that those whose primary pension income comes from the state-funded first pillar (OASI) are 13 times more likely to be impoverished compared to those whose second salary and company-funded pillar (BVG) is the biggest earner.

Pro Senectute say the pensions studies' results are not surprising

Speaking to Blick, manager for Pro Senectute - a specialist organisation dedicated to the rights and well-being of older people in Switzerland - Alexander Widmer said he was not surprised by the findings. “It is especially people with little education who work all their lives with low wages who are affected. They have no pension fund or only a small one.”

In all, he called on local authorities and the families of those struggling to better inform their relatives about supplementary benefits that can help old people in need, noting that many impoverished pensioners feel ashamed and do not want to come forward for fear of being a burden on the community. However, the help is vital to these people, with Pro Senectute estimating that nearly a quarter of elderly people in poverty cannot get by without supplemental help.

For more information about the study, check out the FSO website. For advice and assistance, check out the Pro Senectute website (in German).

Thumb image credit: WATCHARIT_KONG /

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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