Swiss to spend less this Christmas: survey

The Swiss are tightening their purse strings this festive season according to a new survey which found Swiss consumers will spend an average five percent less on Christmas presents in 2015 than last year.

Swiss to spend less this Christmas: survey
Photo: Alan Cleaver

The survey of 500 people, carried out by an independent survey institute on behalf of international professional services firm Ernst & Young, found the average intended spend this year to be 275 francs, down from 289 francs last year.

Only half of consumers will spend more than 200 francs on Christmas presents, down from 61 percent according to last year’s survey.

A quarter of those surveyed said they intended to spend under 100 francs on gifts this festive season.

The results varied according to area and demographics.

While women had very slightly increased their budget on last year, men were intending to reduce it, from 311 francs to 276 francs.

Those under 55 will be 10 percent less generous this year, while shoppers aged between 56 and 65 years old intend to increase their spend on presents.

According to Ernst & Young, while the strong franc hasn’t had as bad an effect as feared, job losses and austerity measures imposed by Swiss companies have contributed to consumer worries.

“Swiss consumers’ Christmas present budget has decreased in nearly every population group,” said Martin Grölli of Ernst & Young in a statement.

“Reservations about the future economic situation and numerous austerity plans announced by large companies are… inciting consumers to become more prudent.”

Swiss people are most likely to give gift vouchers, cash and books this year, while clothes and jewellery –$48-million diamond rings not withstanding – will be less popular presents.

When choosing presents, price is a major factor for over a third of those surveyed, while product origin and the environment are also more important than last year.

“Not only do consumers want to offer quality, but they also want to be sure that their presents will last and are well-made,” said Grölli.

“Artificial values like the brand name are less important than before.”

Interestingly, the survey found that online shopping will be five percent less popular among Swiss shoppers than last year.

“The general increase in online shopping doesn’t apply to Christmas,” said Grölli.

“People consider Christmas purchases as a special event. It’s not about finding a present as quickly and efficiently as possible but about having an emotional experience when buying,” he added, citing decorated shopping streets and festive music as attractive to consumers.

According to the survey the majority (59 percent) of Swiss don’t buy presents until December, with one in five leaving their shopping until the two weeks before Christmas. 

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Can I get financial help in Switzerland if I’m struggling to pay the bills?

Can foreign residents who are struggling to get by receive the same financial help from the state as the Swiss do, and under what circumstances?

Can I get financial help in Switzerland if I'm struggling to pay the bills?

Say you are a foreign resident in Switzerland and find yourself short of funds, and are unable to pay your monthly bills.

Can you count on your canton’s public coffers to help you out?

Much depends on your status in the country.

If you have a residency permit, have been working in Switzerland and contributing to the social security scheme, then you can receive financial assistance, in form of subsidies, from your local authority.

This is how it works

For instance, if the obligatory health insurance premiums exceed 8 percent of the household income, then you are eligible to receive this help.

However, your canton of residence will look not only at your earnings, but at any other financial assets you hold as well.

So if your income is low but you have plenty of money in the bank in the form of savings or other investments, you will not qualify.

Generally speaking, any resident who is a low earner or has a large number of children — regardless of nationality — could be eligible for subsidised premiums, though criteria, as well as amounts, vary from one canton to another.

READ ALSO : How do I apply for healthcare benefits in Switzerland? 

What about housing?

Low-earners (again, regardless of nationality) are entitled to have their rents subsidised, under certain circumstances — the conditions as well as the income threshold is determined by cantonal authorities.

Generally speaking, in order to claim this help, you must prove that you live in the cheapest available housing in your area. (Needless to say, if you reside in a luxury apartment, you can’t ask for rent subsidy.)

If you don’t fulfill this particular condition, you will be told to move to cheaper accommodations before claiming any benefits.

Exceptions to this rule include situations such as a large number of minor children living in the household, which may make relocation — that is, finding a sizeable apartment at a cheaper price — unrealistic.

The amount of rent reduction will be set by the authorities.

Is any other help available?

If you can’t afford anything in Switzerland which, admittedly, is an extreme and rare situation for anyone working full-time and already receiving either health insurance or housing subsidy (or both), then your only other option is applying for welfare.

This, however, should be the absolute last resort if you want to remain in Switzerland and eventually apply for naturalisation, or even have your work permit renewed.

That’s because being on public assistance is grounds for refusal of citizenship — unless all the money is repaid in full in advance of your application.

READ ALSO: Can I still get Swiss citizenship after claiming social benefits? 

What about disabilities?

This falls under the general social security scheme, so if you are working in Switzerland, then you are eligible to receive these benefits.

The only exception may be people from outside the EU /EFTA — unless your country of origin has concluded a social security agreement with Switzerland.

This link provides additional information about these countries.

If you qualify for disability (and medical records confirm this), you can apply for these benefits at the social security office of your canton.

There are some other things you should keep in mind as well:

Not all foreigners who have a residency permit can apply for financial assistance.

If you came to Switzerland on a temporary permit (L or B), then you don’t have access to any benefits.

And if you ‘bought’ your Swiss residency, you can’t resort to any public help either.

The condition of your stay in Switzerland is that you should be self-sufficient enough to live here without having to work or resort to welfare benefits.