Social assistance: Lack of education is a poverty risk

      -       English   -  Deutsch  -  Français  -  Italiano
(Image unsplash)(Image unsplash)

More than half of adult welfare recipients do not have a recognized vocational qualification. A lack of education is a significant risk of poverty, as a survey of 33 cities shows. Today, municipal social services already provide individualized education for welfare recipients. However, the cities recognize significant obstacles to providing sustainable education for welfare recipients, such as access restrictions for scholarships or regulations regarding foreign nationals.

On behalf of the Städteinitiative Sozialpolitik, the Bern University of Applied Sciences surveyed 33 municipal social services about educational measures in social assistance. All social services agree on educational goals when their clients have educational deficits. Low-threshold educational measures such as language courses are very often facilitated. Vocational training for adolescents and young adults is also a high priority. On the other hand, the social services find high hurdles in basic vocational training for adults. Obstacles include, for example, gaps in the scholarship system and the resulting lack of funding, obstacles under immigration law, the principle of rapid release from social assistance and a lack of resources in the social services.

Removing barriers to education

If a lack of education causes poverty, then that’s where we have to start,’ demands Nicolas Galladé, president of the City Initiative for Social Policy and Winterthur city councilor. The City Initiative for Social Policy will work to remove the many obstacles that still exist. Projects in the cantons of Basel-Stadt (’Enter’) and Vaud (’Formad’), which enable over 25-year-olds to obtain a vocational qualification with the necessary support and financing, are cited as exemplary.

Number of social assistance cases in cities remains stable in 2021

The annual analysis of social assistance statistics from 14 cities shows that the number of social assistance cases in 2021 remained stable compared to the previous year. In particular, the number of new admissions decreased: There were about 7 percent fewer new welfare cases than the average of the previous three years. The social assistance ratio also remained stable or decreased in 11 of 14 cities. The social assistance rate measures the ratio of the number of social assistance recipients to the total population. Thus, the Corona pandemic has not yet led to an increase in welfare receipt. Both federal support payments and the rapid recovery of the labor market have contributed to this.

Cities are key players in social welfare

Cities are seismographs for social changes and develop sustainable solutions. Around a quarter of all social welfare recipients in Switzerland live in the 14 cities studied. Cities and their social assistance developments differ substantially among themselves, as the risk of poverty depends, among other things, on economic structure, population composition, and the availability of social benefits upstream of social assistance, such as housing assistance, scholarships, or family support.

The key figures on social welfare in brief

  • 14 cities: In the current report ’Social assistance in Swiss cities - key figures 2021 in comparison’, 14 cities are represented: Basel, Bern, Biel, Chur, Lausanne, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schlieren, Uster, Wädenswil, Winterthur, Zug and Zurich. Around a quarter of all social welfare recipients in Switzerland live in the 14 cities included in the key figures report. The report is based on evaluations of Swiss social assistance statistics from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).
  • Social assistance remains stable: The number of social assistance cases in 2021 remained stable compared to the previous year. The Corona pandemic has not yet led to an increase in social assistance receipt. Both federal assistance payments and the rapid recovery of the labor market have contributed.
  • Stable or declining rates: In 11 of 14 cities, welfare receipt rates have remained stable or declined. In two (three)* cities, social assistance rates have increased. The social assistance rate measures the ratio between the number of social assistance recipients and the total population.
  • Significantly fewer new cases: In the majority of cities, the number of new admissions decreased in 2021. On average, the reduction was 7.1% compared to the average of the previous three years.
  • Lack of education is a poverty risk: More than half of social assistance recipients (54.9%) do not have a recognized vocational qualification. The Swiss average is only 12.6 percent.
  • What hinders the education of welfare recipients: A survey of 33 cities cited: Principle of rapid disengagement from social assistance (instead of sustainable education), lack of human and financial resources in social services, gaps in the scholarship system, aliens law regulations, individual health problems.