Covid-19 and living conditions in Switzerland in 2020 (SILC)

| Last update: 17.11.2020

image - experimental statistics


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, in spring 2020, far-reaching economic and social restrictions changed the living conditions of Switzerland’s resident population. The Income and living conditions (SILC) survey, which provides detailed information on poverty and the living conditions in Switzerland, was able to measure the impact on living conditions that is presented here for the first time. The interviews for SILC 2020 took place from January to June 2020. This survey period coincides exactly with the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis and allows a differentiation to be made between the period before the partial lockdown (before 16th March, with 7507 respondents to the individual questionnaire) and during the partial lockdown in Switzerland (4864 respondents to the individual questionnaire between 16th March and 20th June).


The experimental analyses shown here aim to provide information as quickly as possible on how Switzerland’s resident population coped at the start of the health crisis due to Covid-19. The subjective assessments provided by the population on the most important aspects of life (personal relationships, health, financial situation, feeling happy, job security and trust in the political system, etc.) have been compared before and during the semi-lockdown, as well as with the results of 2019.

In order to determine results correctly for the whole population for the 2020 survey, and with a view to releasing results quickly, an experimental weighting has been developed (see methodology paragraph).


The Swiss resident population generally shows a high level of satisfaction that did not diminish in the first half of 2020. In this period, the Covid-19 crisis had little impact on the satisfaction of the population regarding their current life, personal relationships or self-perceived state of health. Although the percentage of people who described themselves as being happy always or most of the time did decline significantly during the partial lockdown from 16th March, in comparison with the previous year no exceptional trend could be discerned.


The population’s trust in the political system in Switzerland is generally among the highest in Europe and during the crisis it grew considerably. People who were interviewed on or after 16th March were significantly more likely to have a high or very high level of trust in the political system in Switzerland than those who were interviewed before that date. At the same time, there was a substantial decline in the percentage of people with a low level of trust. The biggest increase in trust was seen in people aged 65 or over, women, people with Swiss nationality, German speakers and people with a higher level of education (upper secondary or tertiary level).


The subjective assessment of a household’s financial situation hardly changed in the first half of 2020 in the population as a whole. This does not, however, hold true for all population groups. According to their own assessment, people whose interview was conducted in French were much more likely to be able to easily or very easily make ends meet during the partial lockdown than before. In the population aged 65 or over, this was already the case before the partial lockdown. In contrast, this percentage was significantly lower among people whose interview was conducted in Italian after 16th March.


The concerns which were expressed during the beginning of the health crisis related to the future economic situation with a considerable decline in people’s perception of job security: the percentage of the actively employed population who judged the risk of becoming unemployed as very low fell from 64.2% at the beginning of 2020 to 53.5% during the partial lockdown. This decline in the subjective assessment of job security was particularly pronounced for men, foreign nationals and for those with financial difficulties.

Detailed results for all indicators and sub-groups are available in an Excel file on the web pages in German and French.


Estimates for 2019 and 2020 are based on provisional versions of SILC-19 and SILC-20 data that have not yet been released.

As the profile of the respondents is not the same as that of non-respondents, weighting plays an important part in allowing an extrapolation to the reference population.

The weighting used for SILC-19 is the final standard weighting, whereas that used for SILC-20 (before or during semi-lockdown) is an experimental weighting.

The standard SILC cross-sectional weighting is usually produced roughly 10 months after the end of the field survey. This is because integrity checks, consolidation and the inclusion of register data (available from March 2021 for the 2020 survey) are needed to produce this weighting. However, the tasks of quality control and inclusion of register data are hardly relevant to the subjective variables examined here.

A provisional and experimental weighting was calculated in order to release information as soon as possible on the impact of the Covid-19 crisis on well-being in Switzerland during the first half of 2020. This experimental weighting includes a uniform correction for total non-response, without taking into account the specificities of the profiles. This uniform correction for total non-response was due to a lack of certain auxiliary variables (of profiles) used in the standard weighting to correct for non-response.

In order to make the best possible correction for the potential bias due to total non-response, a final calibration was applied for this provisional and experimental weighting. The final calibration was applied to the same margins as the final calibration of the standard weighting, the only difference being that we used auxiliary information from December 2018 instead of December 2019 (not available before March 2021). For this reason, the experimental weighting used for Covid-19 purposes represents the population at the end of 2018 instead of at the end of 2019, as will be the case for the standard weighting for SILC-20.

The variables used for the final calibration are all taken from registers and are as follows:

  • Civil status (source SRPH)
  • Sex (source SRPH)
  • Nationality group- 4 groups (source SRPH)
  • Type of family (source SRPH)
  • Household size ( SRPH)
  • Major region (source SRPH)
  • At risk of poverty status at 60% of median total equivalent household income (source CCO)
  • Indicative of total equivalent household income  < P10 (source CCO)
  • Indicative of total equivalent household income  < P50 (source CCO)
  • Indicative of total equivalent household income  < P20 (source CCO)
  • Indicative of total equivalent household income  > P80 (source CCO)


The latter partly overlap with the auxiliary variables used for correction for non-response in the standard weighting. The main aspects not covered are as follows:

Variables taken from registers:

  • Household composition by nationality
  • Type of family and number of children
  • Household composition by sex
  • Commune typology - 9 groups
  • Nationality group - 2 categories
  • Size of household’s commune
  • Presence of supplementary benefits in household
  • Number of unemployment allowances in household
  • Number of disability pensions in household
  • Number of old-age pensions in household
  • Number of incomes from employment in household
  • Moved house (change of building) in past 2 years
  • Living space per household member

Variables drawn from SILC survey in wave 1 and same values used from wave 2 onwards:

  • Employment status in 4 categories
  • At risk of poverty status at 60% of median total equivalent household income
  • Material deprivation 3 out of 9 items
  • Maximum household level of education
  • Interest in politics
  • Rent and accommodation costs 


In order to correct comparability issues arising from the fact that the profiles of respondents at the start of the survey (more willing to cooperate with this statistic) are different from those of respondents at the end of the survey, we processed separately the net sample of respondents before 16 March and that of respondents between 16 March and 20 June (semi-lockdown in Switzerland). This means that the two sub-samples each correspond to the population of December 2018.

The distribution of weights in the experimental weighting of SILC-20-Covid-19 is close to that of the standard SILC-19 weighting.