Impoverished children in wealthy Switzerland

Nov 20, 2020.

World Children’s Day on 20 November 2020 reminds us that there’s still a lot to be done to ensure that children’s rights are realised everywhere. This is why we are taking a closer look at an issue that supposedly doesn’t exist in Switzerland: child poverty.

There often isn’t enough money for the little things: a trip to the swimming pool, new shoes, a balanced diet, not to mention a membership for a sports club, a smartphone or a holiday.


For 144,000 children, this is their reality in Switzerland. They are growing up in families that are affected by poverty. They have to do without things that others take for granted. In our society, money and status play an important role. Children also want to belong, and to be a part of society. If they cannot, they run the risk of becoming outsiders – even from a young age.



One to two children in every school class are affected by poverty

The latest figures are sobering. According to the Federal Statistical Office, one in eight people in Switzerland had difficulties making financial ends meet in 2018. People affected by poverty are often mothers or fathers (19.3%), people with a migrant background (17.5%), people not gainfully employmed (14.4%) or people who haven’t completed any training after compulsory schooling (12.1%). In these families, 144,000 children are growing up in poverty. An additional 291,000 children are at risk of poverty. This means that in every Swiss school class, around one to two children are affected by poverty.



Poverty is inherited

Anyone who grows up in financially precarious situations will most likely also experience difficulties later in life. If children are not encouraged and supported, this often has a negative impact. The exclusion from social activities that children affected by poverty often experience from an early age can become a reoccurring issue throughout their lives. One of the best ways to combat poverty is through education.



Early years development – the key to more equal opportunities

The foundations for educational opportunities are laid down in the very first years of life, which is why early years development is a decisive factor in preventing the spiral of poverty. Heidi Simoni, Director of the Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind (MMI), explains: “Children need opportunities to move and observe, to imitate and to try things out. They want to explore and figure out the world, to ask questions and find answers.” If they grow up in families affected by poverty, they often have fewer opportunities to fulfil these needs. This is where the “MegaMarie” family centre, led by the institute, comes in. It provides a playroom, crafts room and meeting place for young children from all social spheres and supports adults with any educational questions.



Overcoming child poverty

There are impoverished children and children at risk of poverty in all regions of Switzerland. They live with and among us – even if it isn’t always apparent. The appropriate social services such as the MMI, educational opportunities and a functioning social network can help those affected to escape poverty in the long term – so child poverty doesn’t have to be their life story.

Together with “The Human Safety Net Switzerland” foundation, Generali Switzerland is supporting projects that benefit impoverished families and people with a refugee or migrant background. We want to give them the opportunity to lead a secure and self-determined life. The Marie Meierhofer Institut für das Kind is an early learning competence centre and a partner of “The Human Safety Net Switzerland”.