Caritas takes stock at the turn of the year

Coronavirus crisis reinforces gender inequality in Switzerland

Women are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus crisis. This reinforces a trend which is confirmed by figures on poverty every year: Women are at greater risk of poverty than men. The 2022 Social Almanac published by Caritas Switzerland focuses on women’s poverty and shows ways of reducing inequalities.


Switzerland has so far been able to successfully contain the economic and social consequences of the coronavirus crisis with a comprehensive package of support measures for employees, the self-employed and businesses. In particular, the massive expansion of short-time work has secured hundreds of thousands of jobs and prevented high unemployment.

But the crisis is not over yet – either in health terms or economically. It remains to be seen what will happen when the support ends, especially as the epidemiological situation is currently worsening  again. In some companies, layoffs may simply have been delayed by short-time work. Moreover, the number of long-term unemployed has grown steadily and significantly since the beginning of 2020. An increasing number of people who are unemployed do not find work for years.

The coronavirus crisis exacerbates existing inequalities

The 2022 Social Almanac, which has just been published by Caritas, looks back at social and economic developments and shows: The coronavirus crisis has made the precarious situation of many people in Switzerland visible, but it has not created it. Poverty has been increasing for years. Even before the pandemic, 735,000 people were affected by poverty, including 115,000 children. In addition, there are almost as many households living just above the poverty line in precarious conditions. The crisis has further exacerbated existing inequalities. While low-income households suffered income losses of 20 per cent on average due to the crisis, high-income households were actually able to save.

Women are particularly affected by precarious working conditions

Switzerland was able to contain the social consequences of the Covid pandemic  with comprehensive measures, yet inequality has nevertheless increased. The coronavirus crisis also reinforces problematic developments in the labour market. Job losses are particularly high in sectors in which many people without (recognised) training work. They will find it even more difficult in future to get a job. At the same time, precarious and unstable working conditions, multiple jobs and part-time work with few weekly hours continue to increase. They do not provide adequate social security cover. Women are much more affected by these types and conditions of work than men. This gap is particularly marked in part-time work. In 2020, six out of ten gainfully employed women, but fewer than two out of ten men, worked part-time. About a quarter of women worked part-time at less than 50 per cent (0.5 FTE). Among mothers with a partner and children, half are unemployed or work part-time at less than 50 per cent. By no means have all of them chosen this. Rather, early-years childcare services are too expensive or are lacking completely.

The low earnings of many women lead to financial dependence on their partner and a low pension in old age. Working for years in a part-time job with few weekly hours and low pay means no pension fund annuity. In 2020, more than a quarter of women only had a state pension (AHV). And for many, this is not sufficient to cover their living expenses. Almost one sixth of women are dependent on supplementary benefits in old age.

The 2020 Social Almanac is dedicated to women’s poverty

In its recently published edition, the Social Almanac focuses for the first time on the phenomenon of women’s poverty. Why are women in Switzerland  at greater risk of poverty than men, despite their equal legal status? A risk that actually increases in old age? Renowned experts examine this question and point to ways of addressing it.  

The Social Almanac, which appears on 24 May and is published by Caritas Switzerland, wants to raise awareness of the fact that the issue of poverty reveals just how effective gender equality measures really are. 


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