Period Poverty in Switzerland
Women have been getting their periods from the beginning of time. The first mass-produced commercial menstrual products emerged in 1897. On average, people with access to these menstrual products use
17,000 tampons in their life. Now, there are a plethora of menstrual products to choose from. Unfortunately, even with the availability of these products, there is immense period poverty, which refers to the inability of a menstruating person to access or afford products for their cycle. In Switzerland, 8.5% of the population faces income poverty which likely has an impact on women’s ability to menstruate hygienically. Switzerland has made considerable strides in an attempt to nullify the discrepancies between genders. However, this has not been entirely successful. Here is some information about period poverty in Switzerland and what measures are in place to eliminate it.

The Reason for the Problem

Period poverty in Switzerland is a problem that some parts of the country have attempted to address. However, it has become increasingly difficult for the youths to access these products due to inflation and taxes. With 50.4% of the population of Switzerland being female, they are part of the more than 500 million women worldwide who are deprived of menstrual products. The average woman bleeds for a total of 3,500 days or 10 years of her life. When living below the poverty line, it is often difficult to obtain menstrual products. About 10% of Switzerland’s youth fall below the poverty line as of 2019. However, specific statistics are not available regarding the number of people that period poverty affects in Switzerland.

All over, this deprivation curbs these people’s potential as they cannot step out of their house to work or study for fear of random pain in different parts of their body along, fear of staining their clothes or even just keeping their hygiene. This has a significant impact on the productivity of these women and their contribution to the world economy and each individual’s life. Lack of hygiene and loss of blood and tissues make a woman prone to multiple bacterial issues. The disparity between the two groups is unnecessary and dispels the disadvantaged group of a fundamental human right.

The Reason for the Prevalence of Period Poverty in Switzerland

The Swiss government started a campaign in 2021 to try and solve the problem of period poverty by making pads and tampons available for free in public schools and colleges. However, this did not work very well as, despite the free products, they were not in stock and available at all times within the schools and colleges. Often, the schools and colleges did not advertise their availability, and the school’s menstruating counterparts did not know they had a right to access these products. The lack of appropriate advertisement for the campaign failed to raise awareness about the unsaid taboo still prevalent in this small European country.

One might think that period products should not be so expensive since they are necessary for the normal bodily function of menstruation. However, it is more expensive to menstruate than it is to take a performance-enhancing tablet like Viagra since the Swiss Government imposed a value-added tax (VAT) rate of 7.7% on feminine hygiene products.

Poverty is an issue in nearly one in five Swiss households and about 10% of the youth below the age of 20 fall under the poverty line. On any given day, 300 million women and girls worldwide will be menstruating, indicating that period poverty is likely a challenge that requires resolution not only in Switzerland but also globally.

Solutions

Apart from the Swiss Government’s individualistic contribution to eradicating the problem in the country, the World Bank has made an effort to collectively end the stigmatization of menstruation worldwide by introducing the annual Menstrual Hygiene Day on May 28. The end of stigmatization means that soon people will be able to talk about periods and issues like period poverty without experiencing shame.

Additionally, the City of Geneva introduced a pilot project wherein the municipality of the city has put up vending machines in economically challenged suburbs where youth are most likely to congregate. These machines contain sanitary and period-related products with organic cotton sanitary towels. Geneva has installed more than 53 machines as of September 2021. The aim was to break the taboo surrounding periods and make periods open to conversation. The products available within the machines are at subsidized prices, making them more affordable.

Another contributor to this is entrepreneurs Alexandra Wheeler and Eléonore Arnaud, who opened a boutique in Toulouse, Switzerland, called Rañute, which is all about destigmatizing periods. Wheeler and Arnaud open up conversations and stock products ranging from herbal teas to help with period pain as well as reusable panties and cups. It is not just a safe space for women but also young girls. It also provides a space for fathers and those in transition phases, such as menopause, who are eager to learn. Recently, the boutique has expanded to have online stores for its products to make them more readily available throughout France and Switzerland.

While more work is essential in terms of raising awareness, removing the stigma around menstruation and period poverty and making sanitary products freely available, Switzerland is on a solid path to do so. Hopefully, with continued work, period poverty in Switzerland will disappear entirely.

– Zyra Irani
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Switzerland’s Foreign Aid
The Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) provides the basis of Switzerland’s foreign aid strategy. The country’s Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23 focuses on building “peace and security, prosperity, sustainability and digitalization.”

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Switzerland’s foreign aid to Ukraine will double by the end of 2023 to $104 million. Switzerland’s support of Ukraine coincides with its foreign aid strategy to build peace and security for people around the world.

Peace and Security

According to a press release from January 2020, the FDFA approved Switzerland’s foreign aid strategy to construct a world safe for everyone to live in and prosper. “In the spirit of cooperation with other countries, Switzerland is committed to working towards a safe and peaceful world where everyone can live free from want and fear, have their human rights protected and enjoy economic prosperity,” FDFA stated on its website.

Accordingly, Switzerland’s candidacy on the U.N. Security Council in 2023-24 will advance Switzerland’s foreign aid globally but especially to Ukraine. Switzerland’s temporary seat will begin in January 2023 through December 2024 and during those two years, Switzerland will “intensify their work towards a peaceful international order,” according to the FDFA.

Foreign Aid to Ukraine

In July 2022, Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis announced that Switzerland’s foreign aid will double in Ukraine. He pledged approximately $104 million to Ukraine for reconstruction. According to Cassis, “Ukraine has to lead its reconstruction, but we have to support it,” Swissinfo reported.

Cassis also announced that Switzerland will continue to support organizations operating in Ukraine. He said that “Multilateral efforts are ‘an antidote to the use of force’.” However, Switzerland remains open to peace talks between Russia and Ukraine.

Protection for Ukrainian Refugees

In March 2022, the Swiss government decided to grant protection to Ukrainian refugees. Protection will extend to any Ukrainian citizen or resident of Ukraine. It also includes people whom the Ukrainian government granted protection before February 2022.

This protection, or Permit S, is a temporary measure “to persons in need of protection as long as they are exposed to a serious general danger, in particular during a war or civil war as well as in situations of general violence” (Asylum Act §§ 4, 66, para. 2.). Permit S is valid for one year. However, it may extend to five years, depending on the length of the ongoing war.

The Bid to Seize Russian Assets

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the Swiss government to freeze their Russian oligarch’s assets. The U.S. House of Representatives urged President Joe Biden to use the funds from the Russian assets to support military and humanitarian aid.

Switzerland froze the Russian oligarch’s assets. However, it has yet to announce any intention to take control of the funds and use them for Switzerland’s foreign aid in Ukraine. Cassis said, “This is a global question and Switzerland will announce its position at the appropriate time.”

Switzerland has always valued peace and it strives to create a peaceful world. Its temporary seat on the U.N. Council could further implement its foreign aid policy to create a secure and safe world for all people to live in. With the ongoing war in Ukraine, Switzerland’s foreign aid strategy to support Ukraine provides hope for the Ukrainian citizens and the world that Switzerland’s value for peace will be one of their top priorities.

– Chris Karenbauer
Photo: Flickr

Switzerland helps IraqIn June 2021, Switzerland contributed $1.1 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to assist hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Iraqi people as well as Syrian refugees in Iraq. These vulnerable groups of people struggle with food insecurity and have little access to income-generating opportunities. Switzerland helps Iraq by providing funding to the WFP to secure immediate needs and support the Urban Livelihoods projects.

Funding From Switzerland

The finance from Switzerland partially funds Urban Livelihoods projects. The initiative assists and trains around 135,000 people by helping them create businesses and employment opportunities that will provide a sustainable income, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Along with the Urban Livelihoods projects, funding from Switzerland supports the WFP in providing monthly food assistance to struggling families and refugees. The WFP uses mobile cash transfers and electronic vouchers to enable families to buy food from markets. In 2021, due to the added impacts of the pandemic, the WFP increased the amount of monthly cash assistance. In cases of “sudden displacement,” the organization “also provides ready-to-eat food packages to support families before they can access a market.”

Refugees in Iraq by the Numbers

As of February 2021, 329,500 refugees live in Iraq. The refugee population in Iraq consists of:

  • Roughly 241,650 Syrian people.
  • About 40,850 refugees from countries besides Syria.
  • An estimated 47,000 stateless individuals.

The Kurdistan Region of Iraq hosts almost all of the country’s Syrian refugees. Urban areas host 60% of the refugees, while other refugees reside in nine refugee camps in Kurdistan.

The Syrian Civil War

Pro-democratic protests began in Syria in March 2011. Demonstrations against “high unemployment, corruption and limited political freedom” began after several surrounding countries protested similar conditions. President Bashar al-Assad and the Syrian government met the protests with lethal force, which further increased the push for his resignation. As tensions rose, protesters armed themselves, initially in self-defense, and eventually, to drive out security forces.

As unrest continued, the government’s response intensified. Assad continued to use violence as he strove to end what he termed “foreign-backed terrorism.” Rebel groups emerged and the conflict turned into a civil war. Foreign countries took sides, sending ammunition and armed forces to either the Syrian government or the rebels. The conflict worsened as jihadist entities such as al-Qaeda became involved. The Syrian Civil War continues to this day, with more than 380,000 documented deaths by December 2020 and hundreds of thousands of people missing.

Switzerland’s Relationship With Iraq

Iraq and Switzerland share a positive relationship that continues to strengthen. Switzerland helps Iraq with projects focusing on “migration and peacebuilding” as well as stability. In October 2020, Switzerland established the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Strategy for Swiss focus in the region. Switzerland will follow the strategy until 2024, and thereafter, the plan will be reassessed. The strategy prioritizes five themes:

  1. Peace-building, security and human rights.
  2. Migration and safeguarding vulnerable people.
  3. Sustainable development in the region.
  4. “Economic affairs, finance and science.”
  5. Digitalization and the latest technologies.

In Iraq specifically, Switzerland focuses on “peace, security and human rights; migration and protection of people in need and sustainable development.” Switzerland’s contribution to the WFP covers all three goals as improving local economies is essential to advance these goals.

Urban Livelihoods Projects

Switzerland helps Iraq and the WFP by funding Urban Livelihoods projects that assist “up to 68,000 people in Baghdad, Basra, Mosul and Wassit.” People who take part in Urban Livelihoods projects receive a cash stipend if they work on community activities such as clearing public areas, renovating schools, planting trees and recycling.

Smallholder farmers from camps for displaced people are also a focus of the projects because farming can serve as long-term income-creating opportunities. Projects increase the cash flow to local economies, which strengthens the economic resilience of entire communities.

In addition to Switzerland, many more countries also support Urban Livelihoods in Iraq, including Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. The pandemic made the WFP’s projects even more essential as unemployment increased, making Switzerland’s contribution vital. The WFP calls on the international community to collectively contribute $10.1 million in order for the project to reach as many as 300,000 people in Iraq.

Through the commitment and generosity of countries and organizations, vulnerable people in nations such as Iraq can look toward a potentially brighter tomorrow.

Alex Alfano
Photo: Flickr

minimum wage in GenevaIn an effort to combat rising poverty rates caused by Switzerland’s COVID-19 economic recession, the canton of Geneva has voted to implement a minimum wage of $25 an hour, which is roughly equal to $4,100 a month according to the 41-hour Swiss workweek. Reportedly, the highest minimum wage in the world, the vote came after recent media footage showed thousands of people waiting for food aid, thus highlighting the city’s apparent struggle with poverty. Low-wage service workers and vulnerable groups, such as undocumented workers, who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic stand to directly benefit from the initiative to increase the minimum wage in Geneva.

The Minimum Wage Argument

Minimum wage hikes are a longstanding, though controversial method to combat poverty. Pro arguments for minimum wages state that it increases the overall standard of living, boosts worker morale, and, if the wages are good enough, moves people out of poverty. On the contrary, economists have noted that the well-meaning increase can actually create job loss, increase inflation and labor market competition, thereby adding to poverty rates. Opponents in Geneva used this claim of job loss to sway the vote against the initiative but the attempt was responded to by Alexander Eniline of the Swiss Labour party as “baseless.” Though it is important to note the number of people in a household and how many of them work, studies show that minimum wages can reduce poverty when coupled with in-work benefits or other national policies aimed at supporting low-income households. With this in mind, Switzerland’s extensive social security coverage and welfare policies may be strong enough to offset the negative effects of a minimum wage increase.

Details of the Minimum Wage in Geneva Vote

This proposal to introduce a minimum wage to Geneva was not the first of its kind. In 2011, then again in 2014, the measure was widely rejected by the canton. Similarly, the most recent vote which was proposed through the country’s popular initiatives ballot on September 27, 2020, barely passed, with 42% of voters against the implementation. Media reports question whether Switzerland’s economic fallout following COVID-19 and the surprising response to free food distribution have pushed the vote over the edge.

On one side, Michael Grampp, a chief economist in Switzerland, stated, “It definitely helped push the vote towards almost 60%,” while Mauro Poggia, Geneva State Counselor, did not agree that COVID-19 had a large impact on the vote. Though the pandemic’s amount of influence remains unclear, the wage increase has been viewed as a collective act of solidarity with the city’s growing poor population.

The wage increase comes into effect on November 1 and will benefit 30,000 low-wage workers, which amounts to about 6% of the canton. According to Groupement Transfrontalier Européen, which is an organization supporting cross border workers, two-thirds of those benefitting will be women.

Increasing Minimum Wage: Is it Enough?

Standing as one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world, the minimum wage initiative is estimated to be barely enough to push Swiss workers above the poverty line. While $25 an hour may seem high when compared to the U.S. federal minimum wage of $7.25, Geneva’s average cost of rent for two people is roughly $3,250. This leaves less than $1000 left for food, utilities and other necessities.


Though Switzerland’s strong social security policies have kept the economic effects of COVID-19 from devastating Geneva, the city’s population is hopeful that the measure of increasing minimum wage in Geneva will give low-wage workers another boost. Campaigners have called it a “step towards equality” and a more “dignified” way of living.

– Anastasia Clausen
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland
Switzerland is a landlocked nation, directly intertwined within Europe’s great powers: it borders Italy to its south, France to the west, Germany to the north and Liechtenstein and Austria to the east. Switzerland is one of the wealthiest nations in the world, ranking consistently among the highest of all nations with regards to GDP per capita at roughly $82,000 in comparison to a global average of slightly under $11,500. It is also home to excellent infrastructure and a reputation for timeliness. Moreover, it can boast that it is one of the few nations that has actually managed to have eradicated poverty within its borders according to Sustainable Development Goal 1. Here is some information about SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland.

Sustainable Development Goal 1 and Income in Switzerland

Part of Sustainable Development Goal 1 prioritizes increasing incomes of people across the world, such that they may work to earn at least $1.90 per day. Switzerland has found massive success reaching SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland: according to the 2020 Sustainable Development report, less than 0.1% of all Swiss citizens fall into this category. Indeed, when expanding the scope of the Goal and its expectations to $3.20 per day, Switzerland still maintains a rate of less than 0.1% of its citizens living within this category. 

If anything, this is a testament to the Swiss tradition of higher education. Studies have demonstrated that higher education frequently leads to higher incomes, resulting in Swiss policymakers improving access to, and quality of, education throughout the nation. Indeed, Swiss schools are receiving recognition as among the best in the world at every level: elementary, secondary and post-secondary. Given the role of education in breaking the cycle of poverty, Swiss excellence in education has been remarkable in establishing the nation’s role as a major financial hub across the world.

The Veil of SDG Goal 1 in Switzerland

However, even if one thinks that poverty does not exist in Switzerland, it is extremely real and is largely a function of the country’s extremely high cost of living. In the canton of Geneva, a law passed requiring a $25 per hour minimum wage, the highest in the world. The push for Switzerland to implement this wage was largely as a result of exacerbated inequalities in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Likewise, while the 2020 Sustainable Development report notes that the poverty rate after taxes and transfers has decreased over time — a sign that the welfare system, as well as the overall governance of Switzerland, is extremely strong — it still stood at 9.1% as of 2015, the last year data was available.

Swiss Solidarity

Non-governmental organizations have been present in Switzerland to help its most vulnerable citizens get out of poverty. Swiss Solidarity, an umbrella organization working to coordinate the efforts of 26 smaller groups, has donated more than 50 million Swiss francs to improving the lives of Swiss citizens throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. This money focused on buying more temporary housing for the homeless during the pandemic, as well as the elderly and those facing a precarious financial situation prior to the pandemic.

The scope of Sustainable Development Goal 1 is so narrow, only measuring nations by the number of people living under $1.90 per day, $3.20 per day and the post-taxes and transfers poverty rate. If one looks at poverty through the lens of Sustainable Development Goal 1, then,  it appears that Switzerland has completely eradicated every single form of inequality and poverty within the nation. However, that is simply untrue, as nearly 10% of Swiss people can attest to.

– Alexander Bloukos
Photo: Flickr

hunger in switzerlandSwitzerland is a well-off country with a high standard of living and a low poverty rate. While poverty does exist within the country, food security is not much of a concern due to strong welfare programs. This is because hunger in Switzerland is an issue that the government takes seriously and works hard to improve.

Life in Switzerland

Switzerland has a high overall standard of living, but this comes with a high cost of living that can alienate impoverished people. Both Zurich and Geneva are some of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live. Even against other developed countries with similar standards of living, Switzerland is expensive. The average total household expenditure in Switzerland is about 60% higher than the average of the European Union.

The price of living in Switzerland is steep. Swiss health insurance is mandatory by law, monthly rent is relatively high, and transportation and grocery costs are significant expenses. Switzerland also boasts some of the highest salaries in the world, which offsets the costs of living. However, of the 7.9% of Swiss residents living below the poverty line— about 660,000 people—still struggle to afford what they need. However, poverty in Switzerland is relatively low. Government welfare programs help impoverished people get back on their feet.

Welfare Programs in Switzerland

Hunger in Switzerland is rare due to the fact that Swiss welfare payments cover necessities such as food, clothing, housing, health insurance, and other personal needs. Upwards of 270,000 Swiss residents receive some sort of welfare, distributed at the cantonal level to residents living below the country’s poverty line. This amounted to about $2.85 billion spent on welfare throughout the entire country in 2018.

There are several guidelines about who qualifies for receiving welfare and how welfare benefits can be spent. They include housing within a certain price range, cars covered for health reasons or jobs inaccessible by public transport, and welfare not covering expenses for pets. Welfare recipients are not eligible to become Swiss citizens while receiving welfare or for three years after (although the wait is longer in some cantons).

The social assistance programs work to ensure Swiss residents are receiving the help they need to survive and get back on their feet. 8% of welfare recipients need help for six or more years, 20% require assistance for only one or two years, and about 50% receive welfare for less than a year. Aggressive and good quality welfare programs ensure that hunger in Switzerland is a very rare and easily fixable issue.

Global Food Security and Hunger Worldwide

While hunger in Switzerland itself is not much of an issue, Switzerland works hard to assist global food security.

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is a global partnership for agricultural research.  CGIAR is one of Switzerland’s 15 priority organizations for global development. It supports research in 80 countries on food quality and sustainable natural resource management. The goal of their research is to stabilize agricultural production and food supply for a rising global population. The Swiss Federal Council renewed its contributions to the CGIAR in 2019, pledging to contribute CHF 33.1 million or $35.9 million in the 2020-21 period.

Switzerland is dedicated to supporting other countries in facing food insecurity, as shown by the town of Basel which put together the event “Basel Gegen Hunger” in June of 2018. This was the second annual event for the campaign. The event raised funds and brought awareness to the hunger crisis in South Sudan. In six weeks, the residents of Basel raised more than CHF 53,000—close to $60,000—for people affected by the famine.

Hunger in Switzerland is low due to its comprehensive welfare programs. However, the Swiss are dedicated to fighting global hunger. Switzerland addresses hunger domestically and globally through agricultural research, giving money, and spreading awareness.

Kathy Wei

Photo: Flickr

poverty eradication in Switzerland
The Central European nation, known as Switzerland, may have a reputation for being a country full of bankers while holding nearly the highest GDP per capita. However, an ignored (and perhaps somewhat surprising) problem about the country is poverty. Though Switzerland has a relatively generous social benefit program, in addition to great schooling — those who do not quite fit the seemingly “well off” stereotype end up struggling. Moreover, for these people, the country’s very high cost of living exacerbates the problem. Innovations in poverty eradication in Switzerland, both public and private, have done solid work to help remedy the complex problem of poverty, to a certain extent.

Swiss Solidarity

One of the private aid organizations, which are currently influential in Switzerland, is “Swiss Solidarity.” This private organization is not only crucial in helping Swiss citizens who fall into poverty, but also citizens of other nations, abroad. One of the key examples of how this innovative, private aid organization operates is through direct monetary assistance to its citizens.

Swiss Solidarity has a program titled, “Severe Weather Assistance Program” that directs funds to disadvantaged individuals within Swiss society affected by severe weather. This fund for natural disasters is vital in creating a strong social safety net that stops people from going into unbridled bankruptcy — if and when disaster strikes.

In addition to their specific programs, Swiss Solidarity partners with many other organizations that attempt to fight poverty and its downstream effects. Swiss Solidarity officially partners with 26 NGOs, including Save the Children Switzerland, SolidarMED, Swiss Red Cross and Nouvelle Planète, among others.  This cooperation between organizations helps to maximize the effectiveness of their outreach.

Switzerland’s Successful Programs and Policies

Though Switzerland does not have a generous welfare state, like some other Western European countries and the United States, Switzerland leverages the power of prudent policy decisions to reduce poverty within the country. One of the key policy decisions that Switzerland has implemented is called a “social insurance” program. In Switzerland, every business and citizen pays into this program. The program covers things such as sickness, disability and other tragedies that might put people out of work. Alternatively, in other nations, disability or sickness may plunge people into poverty without much hope for relief.

Another of the key innovations promoting poverty eradication in Switzerland is its brilliant foresight concerning public policy. Switzerland actively tries to write legislation that preemptively addresses the roots of poverty — rather than trying to focus on alleviating at the back end, when millions of lives already experienced despair. Also, Switzerland places a very high priority level on education and makes sure that each child has access to quality education. This, in turn, serves to point them toward a field in which they can work and support themselves.

These are just two examples of how both private and public industries can evolve to help the poor in Switzerland. Specifically, Switzerland’s culture of shared responsibility and relative cosmopolitanism helps private organizations thrive. Moreover, foresight and intelligent planning make public governance work best for all of the people. Both of these factors are innovations in poverty eradication in Switzerland that also help increase overall well-being within the country.

– Zak Schneider
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

poverty in switzerland
The media often refers to Switzerland as one of the wealthiest countries. It is a country that others view as a model for a liberal-market economy. Its human development index (HDI) ranking is second in the world.  Despite this, it still requires aid to support hundreds of thousands of residents struggling to make ends meet. In fact, the poverty rate grew from 7.5% in 2016 to 8.2% in 2017. Here is some information about poverty in Switzerland.

Poverty and Welfare in Switzerland

In 2020 (income 2019) about 8.5% of the Swiss population or 772,000 were poor. The Swiss poverty rate had decreased from 9.3% to 5.9%  from 2007 to 2013, but since 2014, it has been trending upward. People most affected include households in which no adult is working, single-family households with children and people who have no education beyond compulsory education. Age also factors into poverty in Switzerland. Those 18 and younger along with those who are 64 and older are more likely to struggle with poverty .

Most poor people qualify for Swiss welfare. Known as the “basket of goods,”  it is a monthly payment to provide for basic necessities. Basic needs include food and clothes, for which individuals will receive CHF1,000 ($961.70), as well as CHF1,000 for housing and CHF200 ($192.34) for health insurance as of 2020. Welfare recipients must find the cheapest housing and those 25 and under must live with their families. Welfare pays only for public transportation, not for a car. Persons who receive welfare may also have to meet with a budget advisor to help improve financial stability. As people earn more money, the government lowers their payments.  About half of the people on welfare stay on it for less than a year, 20% need one to years to get off welfare and eight percent need up to six years.

NGOs Fighting Poverty in Switzerland

Beyond the Swiss government, there are a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) providing assistance in Switzerland. Caritas Switzerland is one of the oldest, and is working to “reduce poverty in half.” Caritas is a global organization, with the goal to reduce poverty globally as well as provide emergency relief and post-natural disaster reconstruction. Caritas emerged in Switzerland in 1901, working to provide aid for those who experience financial disadvantages such as single mothers, retirees and refugees. The NGO’s services in Switzerland include Caritas groceries for the poor, a Caritas “Culture Card” so poor people can attend cultural events and a debt advisory service.

A second major NGO supporting Switzerland’s poor is HEKS/EPER which, in 2019, ran 162 projects in 32 countries, including Switzerland. In Switzerland, HEKS/EPER is focusing on supporting asylum seekers, job integration and legal services. HEKS/EPER also created the project HEKS Wohnen, a program to assist those who may be socially disadvantaged, including those with addiction problems and mental illness, to find living quarters and successfully integrate into society.

Despite the uptick in Switzerland’s poverty rate, the support of NGOs such as HEKS/EPER, Caritas Switzerland and the government welfare reform programs provide aid and assistance to those living in the country. With these support systems in place, Switzerland should have the ability to reverse its higher poverty projections.

– Allison Lloyd
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in SwitzerlandMany know Switzerland for its high standard of living and hail its healthcare system as one of the best in the world—in fact, it often ranks as one of the top 10 healthcare systems worldwide. However, while healthcare in Switzerland is universal, it is not free or public, which makes it very expensive.

How It Works

All residents pay for their own health insurance. Unlike other countries, healthcare does not receive funding from government taxes. Even children and retirees must have their own individual health plan. The Swiss government mandates that health insurance providers cannot reject applicants for any reason and that all insurance providers offer a basic level of healthcare coverage to ensure that all citizens can obtain insurance.

The basic level of health insurance is identical across all Swiss insurance providers, covering expenses such as general check-ups and treatments, prescription costs, vaccinations, hospital visits and more. A basic healthcare plan covers around 80-90% of a person’s medical costs.

Health Insurance Companies

The role of health insurance companies in Switzerland is complicated. As private companies, they are competitive and seek profit. However, since law dictates that they all have to offer the same medical services under the mandatory basic health insurance, companies have limited competition.

Healthcare insurance companies have decreased in number within the past 20 years, from over 1,000 to less than 100. Their influence on political decisions is high since many government officials represent and defend their interests.

Pros and Cons

The Swiss government legally requires anyone staying in Switzerland for over 90 days to acquire health insurance, no matter the total length of stay. Healthcare in Switzerland is expensive, and people pay for most treatments out-of-pocket rather than receiving reimbursement later.

Switzerland’s high healthcare costs partially come from the fact that the government-mandated private insurance premiums largely fund the healthcare system. Healthcare providers charge more money from individuals to cover medical costs and business expenses since the government does not fund healthcare.

However, healthcare standards are high and citizens can receive excellent quality care across the country. Since basic healthcare is mandatory for all residents, every person has an entitlement to the same coverage and standard of care.

Swiss health insurance companies cannot deny insurance or charge inflated insurance rates for those with pre-existing conditions. Depending on customers’ age and insurance package of choice, some health insurance companies also will charge the same fee for the duration of the residency in Switzerland. Insurance rates may not increase even in the event of sickness or injury.

Comparison with Other Countries

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) compared healthcare in Switzerland with healthcare in the 37 other OECD countries. It found that Switzerland’s model of universal health insurance coverage provides a wide variety of medical services and high patient satisfaction, but the percentage of Switzerland’s GDP that goes towards health is the second-highest in the OECD area.

Other OECD countries perform equally as well or even better in terms of healthcare at a lower cost. Switzerland spends the highest GDP, around 12%, on healthcare in comparison to other European countries. Swiss residents also spend an average of 10% of their salary on health insurance.

– Kathy Wei
Photo: Unsplash

Eight Facts About Education in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the leaders in education within the European Union. With a national initiative to have accessible education to all of its citizens, the Swiss education system ranks number six on the Study E.U. education ranking of 2018. So what exactly is it that allows for such a praiseworthy education system? These eight facts about education in Switzerland show why the country is so successful in the education of its people.

8 Facts About Education in Switzerland

  1. Canton School Systems: Each canton – a Swiss state – has primary responsibility for how the schools in their area are run. Effectively each canton runs their own education system, though there is an overruling federal educational system: The State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). Each canton can create its own structures such as school calendars and education plans. There is, however, an agreement among the cantons to keep a baseline level of continuity. This opens individuals up to the ability to shop the public schools that fit their own and their child’s needs.
  2. International Schools: Switzerland has a host of schools that cater to international families, operate bilingually or are privatized. This creates a smoother transition for English speaking individuals who can then benefit from education in Switzerland.
  3. Number of Schools: There are currently around 44 schools in Switzerland that specifically accommodate international students and are a part of the Swiss Group of International Schools (SGIS). This schooling goes from primary up to secondary and offers both day and boarding options. Many of the schools follow the Swiss canton curriculum, but many also provide curriculums based on the individual’s home country.
  4. Homeschooling: Homeschooling is not a common practice within Switzerland; some cantons have even outlawed it. In August 2019, the Swiss supreme court rejected a mother’s appeal to the right to homeschool her child. It declared “the right to private life does not confer any right to private home education.” The court also stated that the cantons have the right to decide what forms of schooling they will allow and are in the best interest of the children that reside within their districts. Only 1,000 children receive homeschooling throughout all of Switzerland, a country with more than 8.5 million citizens. Many are against homeschooling in Switzerland because they believe it to be a deprivation to the child’s social education. They believe that a child can only achieve this through daily peer interactions. Further, many believe that homeschooling causes inequality within society because not every family can afford its costs.
  5. Compulsory Education: Education in Switzerland is compulsory for all who reside in the country, regardless of legal residency status. Though it varies by canton, most children have mandatory education for 9 to 11 years. Children begin schooling anywhere from ages 4 to 6 and must stay in school until about the age of 15. Education is typically more sympathetic to the individual in Switzerland. Switzerland has adopted the idea that every child learns differently and requires different support structures within school.
  6. Formal, Vocational and Apprenticeship Training: After their compulsory education, children have the option to continue on with formal education or begin vocational and apprenticeship training. Even though attending a university is comparably more affordable in Switzerland than in other countries, many students opt for vocational and apprenticeship education. Apprenticeships and vocational training can last anywhere from two to four years and can equate to a bachelor’s or associate’s degree. This depends on the duration and weekly hours of involvement in the individual’s education.
  7. Specialized Education: Special education in Switzerland is a right. Specialized education professionals give individuals living with special needs free support until the age of 20. The cantons vary but typically offer special needs students access to both mainstream schools and special needs schools. The European Agency for Special Needs and Inclusive Education (EASIE) assesses children before entering the special education system. It does this in order to determine and advise parents on what may be best for their child. Switzerland joined the EASIE in 2000 in an attempt to better integrate its special needs citizens into mainstream society.
  8. Free Schooling: Schooling is free—kind of. Though compulsory education is free, it does equate to higher taxes for citizens. Further, schools often ask many parents to help with providing school utensils for the classrooms. Many argue that Switzerland’s excellent educational system is because of the country’s vast amount of wealth and higher tax rates. After all, in 2019, a global report listed Switzerland as the wealthiest country in the world, accounting for 2.3 percent of the world’s top 1 percent of global wealth.

Switzerland’s educational system is the ultimate goal for what education should be across the world. These eight facts about education in Switzerland show how the country is striving to create a more learned and prosperous future for its youth. Switzerland is a fantastic example of a country that has met the fourth goal on the global goals for sustainable development: quality education.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr