What do people in Switzerland spend their money on?

The Household Budget Survey published this week by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) shows some interesting details about how much Swiss families earn and what are their most important expenses.

What do people in Switzerland spend their money on?
New study shows how the the Swiss earn and spend. Photo by AFP

These findings are based on data from 2018, the last year for which official statistics are available.


According to FSO, the average household disposable income in Switzerland in 2018 was 7,069 francs per month.

‘Disposable income’ is defined as gross income left after deducting compulsory expenses. It is made up of the earnings of each member of the household, which consists of an average of 2.16 people.

READ MORE: Why Zurich ranks as the world’s most expensive city once again 

In addition to monthly salaries and allowances, household income is also made up of annual payments such as the 13th salary, which is common is Switzerland. Also taken into account are pensions received, social benefits, transfers from other households, as well as wealth income such as interest and dividends.

Overall, income from work made up nearly 75 percent of a household revenue, while pensions and social benefits represented on average 19.4 percent of gross income.

The level of income is often lower in one-person households than in multi-person households, with more than one member able to contribute to this income, FSO reported.

What are the main household expenses?

A large portion of the total disposable income — 5,296 francs — is spent for the consumption of goods and services.

Consumer spending represented 52.4 percent of gross household income. Expenses for housing and energy were the biggest burden on the budget, at around 1,456 francs, or 14.4 percent of gross income.

Taxes took out 1,182 francs per month, or 11.7 percent of income.

Also part of compulsory expenditure are social insurance and pension fund contributions (10.2 percent of gross income) as well as health insurance premiums (6.5 percent).

Transport costs amounted to 7.4 percent, followed by food and non-alcoholic beverages (6.3 percent), restaurants (5.8 percent), and leisure and cultural activities (5.4 percent).

What is left?

The sum of 1,589 francs, or 15.7 percent of gross income, was left at the end of the month in an average household

However, among households in the lowest income bracket — typically those earning less than 5,000 francs a month — nothing is left after all the expenses are paid.

This can be explained by the relatively large proportion (60 percent) of retiree households, which finance part of their expenses by drawing on their savings.


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Almost one in ten live in poverty in Switzerland: Report

More than eight percent of Switzerland’s population live in poverty, while 12 percent struggle to make ends meet.

Almost one in ten live in poverty in Switzerland: Report
A number if people in Switzerland can't make the ends meet. Photo by Depositphotos

A study released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on Thursday shows that 8.7 percent of Switzerland’s public – around 735,000 people – live in poverty, which is defined at 2,279 francs per month on average for a single person, and 3,976 francs per month for two adults and two children.

When adjusted for purchasing power, this threshold is the second-highest in Europe, topped only by Luxembourg.


The numbers are for 2019, so the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is not yet included in the data.

The poverty rate in Switzerland is the highest it has been since 2014, the study found. 

Most financial difficulties were experienced by foreign nationals, people living in single-parent households, people without training, and those living in households impacted by unemployment, FSO reports.

Here are some of the study’s other findings:

  • For the 10 percent of the population with the lowest wages, this income was less than 25,868 francs in 2019. The median income has remained stable at around 50,000 francs. 
  • The poverty rate for the employed labour force was 4.2 percent in 2019. About 155,000 people were living below the poverty line, even though they were in paid work.
  • Just over 12.2 of the population said they had difficulty making ends meet, and 20.7 percent were unable pay an unforeseen expense of 2,500 francs in the space of a month . Of these, 15.1 percent had at least one payment arrears.

READ MORE: Switzerland’s economy forecast to recover 'from summer onwards' 

On the positive side, the country’s general standard of living remains among the highest in Europe.

It is estimated on the basis of the median disposable income, after adjusting for differences in price levels in various countries. 

In Switzerland, this income was 2.8 times higher than in Greece, 1.6 times higher than in Italy, 1.3 times higher than in France, and 1.2 times higher than in Germany and in Austria.

Despite the high price level in Switzerland, the standard of living was higher in Switzerland than in most of the EU countries.