Inflation is pushing many Swiss men and women into very critical situations. The prices of energy products burden the most modest budgets, and the prices of certain foodstuffs are also increasing. Associations and charities are working hard to stop the damage.
Low-income households are the first victims of inflation, which puts them in critical situations, while the Covid pandemic has already caused damage. Organizations such as the Protestant Community Center or Caritas already measure this every day. And according to them, the effects will be felt even more seriously at the beginning of next year.
In Switzerland, the 20% of households with the lowest income spend almost all of their income on consumer spending. In the canton of Neuchâtel alone, for example, 7,200 people have a card that allows access to Caritas stores. Stores where a kilogram of pasta sells for 70 cents, compared to 4 to 6 francs in supermarkets, where their price has already risen by about 14 percent on average.
Severity and sacrifice
But despite this help, budgets are being squeezed inexorably. “My first concern is paying the bills,” testifies Joanna (assumed name), 54, in La Matinale. Budgetary rigor and scarcity are necessary: ”I prefer to have peace of mind and have my bills paid and no lawsuits. So I eat what I can, that’s it. Sometimes I don’t have anything in the fridge.”
Since the spring of 2020, Joanna meets with a social worker from Caritas every month who helps her review her budget. Fired after a major burnout, she saw her income drop by more than 2,000 francs even after finding work. Now he is trying to get out of the debt spiral.
At the end of the month, there were barely a few hundred francs left. A margin that could still shrink in the future, while her gas budget has already doubled in a few months. A problematic situation that worries Julia Henguely, a social worker at Caritas Neuchâtel. Without a pay rise, she fears the situation will worsen early next year. According to her, “some flexibility should be introduced for people with low incomes”, as during the pandemic.
>> Read about it too:
>> Julia Henguely’s words in La Matinale:
The affected student world
Among the “small budgets” that also suffer from the crisis, students are often on the front line. A few days before the start of the academic year, those who are not lucky enough to have the support of their families are worried. Sometimes their budgets barely exceed 1,000 francs a month, and their situation is particularly unstable.
“In addition to my studies, I work in catering to meet my needs. And it’s obvious that in the last few months there are fewer and fewer people coming to consume in my bar,” testifies the master’s student from UNIL. “Students, we’re somewhat considered an adjustment variable: when there’s less work, we’re the ones who lose shifts. That means less income at the end of the month, and the cost of living goes up.”
With or without the purse, they must tighten their belts and be cautious, sometimes sacrificial, to make it to the end of the month. “You have to eat simpler, pasta, classic. And as for health, don’t go to the dentist or gynecologist this year.”
Active associations to limit breakage
Student associations received many similar testimonies this summer. Therefore, they took the lead, especially by exerting direct pressure on prices.
In Lausanne, the Federation of Student Associations Unil (FAE) took steps with the university’s management and partners, especially the cafeteria, “to ensure that the dishes do not suffer the inflation seen in supermarkets”, explains its associate. President Pedro Duarte.
At the national level, the Union of Swiss Students (UNES) has been preparing since the beginning of the summer. It will bring to Bern a resolution that includes several demands, in particular the adjustment of study grants or the protection of student accommodation prices.
>> Full report at the University of Lausanne:
Radio reports: Deborah Sohlbank and Julie Rausis
Web text: Pierrik Jordan