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Switzerland’s low-income earners hit far harder despite lower Covid-19 infection rates

© Nikiforov Oleg |

The economic impact of the Covid-​19 pandemic has hit low-income households far harder than those on high incomes, according to a study published by the KOF Swiss Economic Institute at ETH Zurich.

Infection rates rise with income
More people in the higher income range reported being infected with Covid-19 than those in lower income groups. Among those with incomes below CHF 4,000, 4% said they had tested positive and a further 8% reported symptoms but no positive test. However, in households with incomes above CHF 16,000, 8% had tested positive and a further 8% reported symptoms.

Income down most at bottom
The study found that those with household incomes less than CHF 4,000 (US$ 4,000) a month had seen income drop by an average of 20% since the start of the pandemic. While households earning incomes of more than CHF 16,000 (US$ 17,600) had experienced an average fall of 8%.

Spending down for different reasons
Households on high or very high incomes has reduced their spending the most (-16%) while the average fall in spending among low-​income households (-12%) was more muted.

However, the reasons for lower spending were very different. Among those with incomes below CHF 4,000, 11% had cut spending because they had less to spend. And 39% reported dipping into savings. Wealthier households reported spending less because there were fewer opportunities to spend. 50% of households earning more than CHF 16,000 reported spending less.

Rising debt
Among households earning less than CHF 4,000, 11% reported going into debt to cover current expenses. For those earning over CHF 10,000, the percentage was 2%.

Mental health and trust in politics down
The study looked beyond economics asking questions on mental health and trust in politics. Lower income households reported more significant declines in mental health and trust in politics than than wealthier ones. Among household with incomes under CHF 4,000, 6% reported poor or very poor mental health. Above income of CHF 6,000, this same figure fell to around 2%.

Unsurprisingly, people affected by unemployment reported the largest fall in mental wellbeing.

Trust in the Swiss Federal Council to manage the coronavirus crisis has dropped significantly over time. Early on in the pandemic, 17% of respondents said they had little or very little trust in the Federal Council. By October 2020, the figure had dropped to 40%, where it has remained, with a greater fall reported among low income households.

Finally, the study looked at vaccine reluctance. 16% of those in the highest income bracket said they would not vaccinate, a percentage that rose to 31% among the lowest income group.

The study surveyed 202,516 people across Switzerland from March 2020 until January 2021.

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Le News
The newspaper Le News is a free, quality, local English language newspaper launched on 31 October 2013. Le News fills a gap in local Swiss media for the numerous English-speakers living and visiting Switzerland. In late January 2015 we decided to put our print medium on hold and focus on our digital media presence.
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