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Poverty in Switzerland Swiss Poor Areas Poverty Rate

Poverty in Switzerland remains lower than many of its European neighbors. However, rates still affect a large part of the population. So, why are the Swiss poor? In the country, a lack of awareness about poverty combined with a high cost of living compounds the struggles felt by impoverished residents. Below are the leading facts about poverty in Switzerland.

Top Seven Facts about Poverty in Switzerland

1. One in 13 Swiss Residents Lives Below the Poverty Line.

Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. However, data shows that one in 13 residents of Switzerland are still living in poverty. This rate may come as a surprise to many, as Switzerland is often associated with economic stability. By comparison, an estimated one in five residents of Britain lives in poverty, while the average resident of Zurich makes 21 times more per hour than the average resident of Kiev, Ukraine. Switzerland’s poverty rate is significantly lower than nearby European nations, however, 6.6 percent of the Swiss population still lives in poverty.

2. The High Cost of Living Amplifies the Issue.

Residents of Switzerland must account for a high cost of living; food prices and the cost of housing make daily financial needs quite high. Mandatory private health insurance adds further expense. Recent reports show Zurich and Geneva as two of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living, with certain reports placing the cities above New York City. However, higher incomes in the cities typically offset this cost, with high purchasing power reported. As a result, Zurich and Geneva rank second and third respectively in terms of purchasing power (surpassed only by Luxembourg.)

3. The Poverty Line is Set to Incorporate the Cost of Living.

In order to account for the high cost of living in Switzerland, the poverty rate has been set to incorporate the financial demands of living in the country. For a single person, the poverty line is set as making less than 2,200 francs per month (equal to slightly more than $2,200 in the U.S.) A couple living with two children is considered below the poverty line if earning less than 4,050 francs per month. Poverty in Switzerland is understood as the inability to afford the goods and social services necessary for a healthy and socially integrated life. The Swiss Conference for Social Statistics sets poverty line thresholds based upon meeting those needs.

4. Elderly, Immigrant and Single-Parent Populations are Especially Vulnerable.

Certain populations in Switzerland are especially vulnerable to poverty. These populations are much like the vulnerable populations in many countries, including families with only one parent, elderly residents, the unemployed, unskilled laborers and people living alone. Rates of poverty among these populations are significantly higher than other demographics. For example, those over the age of 60 are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty.

5. Trial and Error Approach to Solutions, Including Universal Basic Income.

As Switzerland seeks to address the levels of poverty that remain in the country, a referendum was voted on which would have paid each Swiss family a weekly guaranteed income. While the referendum failed in a vote this June, it represents an innovation in seeking solutions to poverty. Switzerland is the first country to consider a solution of this kind. Some consider the failure an important step, nonetheless, as it provides a platform for discussing the meaning of basic income.

6. Wages and Income Can Be Quite High in Relation to European Neighbors.

Incomes in Swiss cities are often quite high, with the average resident of Zurich earning $41 per hour or more. This level of earning is often what leads to the association of Switzerland with a lifestyle of security and contributes to offsetting high costs of living. However, for the 6.6% of Swiss residents who do live in poverty, keeping up with city living costs (dependent on similar wages) can lead to a daily struggle.

7. Poverty in Switzerland is Decreasing.

The good news for addressing poverty in Switzerland is a recent decrease in the number of those living in poverty. Since 2007, rates have decreased from 9.3% to 6.6%.

Assessing poverty in Switzerland demonstrates the importance of not allowing a minority impoverished population to go overlooked. The country’s innovative and consistent efforts to address poverty represent a democratic model for the discussion surrounding poverty in developed nations.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Flickr

Mexico's Poverty Rate
The number of Mexicans living in poverty increased by two million between 2012 and 2014, according to Reuters. These figures of Mexico’s poverty rate highlight the challenges President Enrique Peña Nieto is facing in meeting pledges to help millions in need.

 

President Enrique Peña Nieto Struggles with Mexico’s Poverty Rate

 

“With his six-year term half over, Enrique Peña Nieto is trying to rally public confidence in his government’s economic plan amid lackluster growth projections,” said International Business Times.

While his efforts have focused on making Mexico a competitive nation, “the government is flailing in its battle against staggering income inequality and poverty rates that have remained virtually unchanged over the past 20 years,” according to International Business Times.

In 2014, Mexico’s poverty rate increased from 45.5 to 46.2 percent, corresponding to 55.3 million people in the country of approximately 120 million, said a spokesperson for the government’s social development agency.

According to Oxfam Mexico’s executive director, “while the wealth of Mexican multimillionaires is multiplied by five, 48 percent of state schools have no access to sewage, 31 percent have no drinking water, 12.8 percent have no bathrooms or toilets and 11.2 percent have no access to electricity.”

Under Peña Nieto’s administration, the problem has only worsened. While many Latin American countries have diminished their levels of poverty, Mexico’s have continued to increase.

Peña Nieto recognizes that income inequality, global economic turmoil and corruption have prevented Mexico from both an economic boost and a diminished poverty rate.

Jonathan Foxx, a political science professor at American University in Washington, D.C. suggested that “neither inequality nor poverty reduction have been major priorities of this administration, nor the previous administrations.”

The government has been criticized for being too focused on attracting foreign investment and strengthening large-scale private industries, rather than concentrating on reducing its poverty rate.

Professor Foxx added that Mexico’s poverty rate remains the largest concern, regardless of wide income disparities. “If the government was more effective at reducing poverty, then people would worry less about inequality,” he said. “But since neither is getting better, it’s hard to disentangle.”

A major shift in focus and strategy is needed if Mexico is to succeed in combating its increasing poverty rate.

Isabella Rölz

Sources: International Business Times, Reuters, World Bank
Photo: Flickr

Nordic Countries Poverty Rates
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) defines the poverty rate as the ratio of the number of people in a given age group whose income drops below the poverty line, which is taken as half the median household income of the total population. Nordic countries have some of the lowest poverty rates in the world due to a number of factors.

 

Top Reasons for Low Poverty Rates in Nordic Countries

 

  1. Low Unemployment Rates. In Sweden, the unemployment rate has averaged 5.87 percent between 1980 and 2015. In November 2015, Sweden’s unemployment rate declined to 6.2 percent from 6.7 percent in October, the lowest reading since August 2008, according to Trading Economics. Notably, the number of unemployed fell by 55,000 compared to the previous year.
  2. The standard of poverty changes over time as countries become richer. As poverty researcher Peter Townsend notes, “Individuals, families and groups can be said to be in poverty when they lack the resources to obtain the type of diet, participate in the activities and have the living conditions and the amenities which are customary, or at least widely encouraged or approved in the societies to which they belong.”
  3. Transparency. Nordic countries, such as Sweden pride themselves on their honesty and transparency of their governments. In Sweden, everyone has access to all official records. Sweden’s trust for public institutions was at 55 percent compared to Russia’s 25 percent, according to The Economist.
  4. Individual autonomy. Nordic countries have let go of the old social-democratic consensus and presented new ideas from across the political spectrum. They continue to invest in human capital and protect people from the disruptions that are part of the capitalist system, according to The Economist.

According to the OECD, the 2012 poverty rates for Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland stood at 9 percent, 5.4 percent, 8.1 percent and 6.5 percent respectively. At the other end of the spectrum, Mexico had the highest poverty rate at 18.9 percent.

The “Nordic Model” presents a starting point for other countries to develop methods to attack poverty as they work towards sustainable development.

Jordan Connell

Sources: The Economist, The Organization for Economic Cooperation, Trading Economics, Vox
Photo: Vox

New Census Reveals Depth of Poverty in India
According to India’s most recent Socioeconomic and Caste Census (SECC), the extent of poverty in India could be worse than ever before.

A total of 300 million Indian households were surveyed in this census, and 73 percent of those households are in small, rural villages. Of these villages, those who have a job that provides a stable salary make up 10 percent. Those who can afford to pay taxes or own a car make up only 5 percent and 2.5 percent, respectively.

This data solidifies the fact that roughly one-third of the world’s poor currently live in India.

“It is our firm belief that the member countries will not only overcome the endemic poverty in the region but will in the coming years develop the capacity to address all problems relating to poverty,” said SECC Minister of State of Rural Development Sudarshan Bhagat.

In the meantime, those problems are still piling up. According to the SECC, literacy rates in rural India are disheartening, with 35.7 percent of residents illiterate and only 3.5 percent of students graduating from school.

The SECC data, however, is not without its flaws. The data is not quite as concrete as what might be found in a more formal federal survey, but it does provide the most cohesive look at poverty in the country published in recent years.

“We should beware of any illusion that SECC data can be used for the purpose of drawing a line between poor and non-poor households,” said development economist Jean Drèze. “There are fundamental, conceptual and practical difficulties with doing that on the basis of proxy indicators, even with good-quality data.”

According to a different study, a report made by India’s Planning Commission, 363 million Indians, or 29.5 percent of the total population, were living in poverty between 2011 and 2012. Even though this data is a few years old, it does not paint a much brighter picture of the current state of poverty in India. For now, the SECC report is the best bet.

“Quite likely, the SECC dataset is more reliable than earlier Below Poverty Line (BPL) surveys and could be well used, for pro-active identification of people who need social security pensions, housing subsidies and so on,” added Drèze.

– Alexander Jones

Sources: Economic Times, CNN, Huffington Post
Photo: Deccan Chronicle

Poverty-in-Norway
The world’s richest country is Norway. The population of Norway is 4.5 million people. Despite the wealth of the country due to oil commodities, poverty in Norway still exists. In the capital of Oslo, 8.3 percent of the population suffers from poverty. The populations that are affected the most by poverty are immigrants, families with children and single parents, and those who are on social security.

As of 2014, child poverty is on the rise in Norway. It is estimated that 78,000 children are suffering at this time. Three point four percent of children are living in a state of ‘relative’ poverty. In Norway, it is defined as households with income below 50 per cent of the national median.

Of the children of Norway, 3.4 percent of children live below 50 percent of the poverty level, 1.6 percent of the children live below 40 percent of the poverty level and 7.5 percent live 60 percent below the poverty level.

In Norway, the defining features of their national estimates of the percentage of the population falling below the poverty line are based on surveys of sub-groups. The results are then adjusted based upon the number in each group. However, it is important to remember that wealthier nations generally employ more generous standards of poverty than poorer nations.

 

Poverty in Norway

 

Norway is considered to be a relatively rural country as compared to other countries within the EU. Only half of its population lives in cities and towns that have above 8,000 residents. Living conditions are said to be an issue for the impoverished. Overcrowded living conditions accompanies economic straddles in their cities. There are many problems in northern Norway, among their municipalities.

In Norway, a long standing and successful social welfare system exists. It has strong fiscal redistribution mechanisms designed to aim both at the impoverished and at a regional level. It is for this reason alone, that it is said that absolute poverty is rare. As it stands, Norway has 11 percent of the population under low-income level.

In comparison to the other European Union countries, the household poverty threshold is higher in Norway. In Norway, elderly people have a higher low-income risk than comparative age groups, compared to other European countries. In stark contrast, the vulnerable groups of Norway experience the opposite.

The contrast is even starker in oil-rich Norway, where the poorest 38 percent of the people fare better, on average, than the poorest 38 percent of Americans, despite a lower median per capita GDP.

-Erika Wright

Sources: CS Monitor, Index Mundi, News in English, Panam Post, UNICEF,
Photo: Romania Insider

Poverty in Bali
Despite welcoming more than 3 million visitors per year and the total from revenue from tourism that is expected to reach US $5.5 billion annually, many of Bali’s inhabitants are living in extreme poverty. But with so much income—$5.5 billion for its 3.8 million Balinese—why is there poverty in Bali?

In Bali, there are as many as 162,051 people living in poverty and this figure has been on the increase. In the villages, the rate at which the number of poor is rising is twice as much as that of Bali’s urban areas. In the Balinese countryside, it is estimated that more than 77,400 people are living in poverty. Currently, in 82 villages out of Bali’s 706 villages, the poverty rate hovers above 35 percent. To make matters worse, on this tourism-focused island where the number of tourists almost matches that of the locals, the incomes of farmers are dwindling and the prices of essential goods are becoming more and more unaffordable to many Balinese.

In remote villages—and “remote” in Bali means an hour or two away from the glittering 5-star hotels—the residents are very poor and most villages lack education, access to clean water and even electricity. Many children must walk for kilometers to go to school. Furthermore, as the more fertile south is overdeveloped, many Balinese are only left with the infertile dry soil of the north and the east to farm on. Due to the lack of jobs and opportunities, men from the villages must also leave to find jobs in the tourism sector, leaving their wives and children. Thus, oftentimes women must work disproportionately, covering both their absent husbands’ tasks as well as their own tasks. In the resort towns, rural migrant workers still earn very little in comparison to what the business establishments whom they work for are earning from tourism. The minimum salary in Bali is only 1,542,600.00 Indonesian Rupiah, or around US $125.

I Made Mangku Pastika, Bali’s governor had made a statement calling the island’s thriving tourism a “disaster” for the poor. He expressed his concern that as prices of basic necessities skyrocket, farmers in need of cash would be forced to sell their land—the only real property they own—in order to make ends meet. The governor had previously fought to stave off further tourism-accommodation developments into the Balinese inland, however due to the political administrative structure, many local authorities ignored his initiative. Trapped in the dilemma of tourism being both the island’s lifeblood as well as—in the words of the governor—a disaster for the poor.

Nevertheless, the governor—now in his second term—is diligently working on solving his island’s economic discrepancy, with many poverty-alleviation plans such as the integrated farming scheme, the installation of solar panels, housing aid and the free healthcare plan. The governor—realizing the injustice of this developmental disparity—also plans to bring down the rate of extreme poverty (people living on less than $2 per day) down from the current figure.

– Peewara Sapsuwan

Sources: The Bali Times, WageIndicator.org, The Bali Times, The Jakarta Post, Australia Network News, The Jakarta Post, Asia News Network,
Photo: Tripping