Covid-19 and living conditions in Switzerland (SILC)

| Last update: 06.10.2021

image - experimental statistics


Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, far-reaching economic and social restrictions have resulted impacting the living conditions of Switzerland’s population. The survey of income and living conditions (SILC), which provides detailed information on poverty and the living conditions in Switzerland, enables the impact on living conditions to be measured. These results are presented here for the second consecutive year.

The interviews for SILC 2021 took place from January to June 2021.


The experimental analyses aim to quickly provide information on how Switzerland’s resident population is coping with the ongoing health crisis due to COVID-19. The latest subjective assessment 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 with the results of 2020 (before the start of the pandemic in March 2020 and after the first partial lockdown) as well as with those from 2019. The first results of the SILC 2021 survey, including questions related to the pandemic (COVID module), are also presented here.

An experimental weighting has been developed in order to determine the results of both parts of the 2020 survey and the 2021 survey correctly for the whole population and with a view to releasing results quickly (more details can be found under Methodology).


The Swiss resident population aged 16 and over generally shows a high level of satisfaction. It has been relatively unaffected by the COVID-19 health crisis since March 2020. The satisfaction of the population regarding their personal relationships or self-perceived state of health in 2021 has not changed considerably compared with 2020 and 2019.

In contrast, the percentage of people who describe themselves as being happy always or most of the time has continuously and significantly declined since March 2020 but is however still 73.9% in 2021. The proportion of people who say they are very satisfied with their current life has decreased significantly in 2021, only applying to 36.6% of the population.

The population’s trust in the political system in Switzerland is generally among the highest in Europe and has increased since the beginning of the pandemic. People who were interviewed in 2020 (on or after 16th March) and in 2021 were more likely to have a high or very high level of trust in the political system in Switzerland than those who were interviewed before the pandemic. The biggest increase in trust was seen in people aged 65 or over, women, and people with Swiss nationality, German speakers and people with a higher level of education (upper secondary or tertiary level).

However, this increase in confidence has tended to recede in 2021, although the slight decrease compared with the beginning of the health crisis is not significant for most of the population categories analysed. For people with upper secondary education and those living in areas with a medium population density, the level of trust in the Swiss political system is at pre-crisis levels, i.e. that before March 2020.

No statistically significant differences are observed by sector of economic activity or for people living in a low-income household (1st quintile).

The subjective assessment of a household’s financial situation changed in 2021. The percentage of people living in a household for which it is easy or very easy to make ends meet has increased compared with 2020, both before and during the first partial lockdown, but also compared with 2019. This increase in the ease of making ends meet is true for all age categories, housing areas, interview languages or income level.

At the same time, there is a decrease in the percentage of people living in a household indicating that they have difficulty in making ends meet (12.2% in 2019 compared with 8.5% in 2021).

The impact of the health crisis on household incomes is significant. In 2021, 20% of the population is living in a household reporting a decline in income over the last twelve months and 11.3% have reported a decline related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

More than a third of those working in the accommodation and food service sector have reported a decline in household income due to the health crisis. People with the lowest incomes and those of foreign nationality are more affected than the rest of the population by a (self-perceived) decline in income as a result of the pandemic. People aged 65 and over and those working in the public administration are the least affected.

Almost 50% of the economically active population has been able to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. This possibility increases significantly with age, education and income level. The main sectors most affected economically by the crisis are, unsurprisingly, those for which working from home has been difficult or impossible (accommodation and food service activities, arts, entertainment and recreation). No statistically significant differences were observed by gender and interview language.

One of the main concerns which were expressed at the beginning of the health crisis related to the future economic situation. Following a considerable decline in people’s perception of job security seen in 2020 from the first partial lockdown in March onwards, this increased in 2021: the percentage of the actively employed population who judged the risk of becoming unemployed as very low rose from 53.5% after the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 to 60.5% in 2021. However, this is still lower than the value observed in 2019 (64.6%).

The resurgence of confidence in the subjective assessment of job security in 2021 recovered to nearly the level before the crisis for Swiss nationals, for people with tertiary education and those living in a household with high incomes. In contrast, this resurgence is not sufficient to return to the pre-crisis level for foreign nationals, francophones and those living in households with low incomes.

Confidence also declined considerably among those working in the accommodation and food services sector and the Arts, entertainment and recreation sector: from 58.3% and 72.1% respectively in 2019, while those reporting a very low risk of losing their job accounted for 41% and 43.9% in 2021. No decline was seen in the sectors less affected by the health crisis, such as the public administration or education.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also impacted leisure-time activities. The share of people who are unable to eat or drink at least once a month with friends or family or who are unable to engage in a leisure activity on a regular basis away from home due to costs has increased significantly in 2021. The percentage of people who say they cannot meet up with friends or family for a drink or meal for any reason has increased from 6.4% in 2019 to 8.2% in 2021. However, only 2.8% renounced this kind of activity for financial reasons (compared with 3.8% in 2019). The largest increase is for people in the highest income group: They were four times more likely to forego meeting friends or family for a drink or meal for any reason (2019: 1.0%; 2021: 3.9%). Nevertheless, these values are well below those of other income groups (1st income quintile: 16.5%, 2nd, 3rd and 4th quintiles: 7.0%). Thus, renunciation for financial reasons is less important than before the health crisis.

The health crisis has had a strong impact on the morale of the population. In 2021, 40.2% of the population aged 16 and over have reported a deterioration in their morale due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Young people aged 16 to 24 are by far the most affected (55.1%), ahead of those with tertiary education (44.8%) and those with the highest incomes (45.1%).

People in sparsely populated areas were more resilient to the pandemic than those in densely populated areas. Those aged 65 and over have been the least affected by a drop in morale linked to the health crisis (26%). No statistically significant differences were observed by gender, nationality, and interview language or activity sector.

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



Estimates for 2020 and 2021 are based on provisional and experimental versions of SILC 2020 and SILC 2021 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 2019 is the final standard weighting, whereas that used for SILC 2020 (before or after the partial lockdown) and SILC 2021 is an experimental weighting.

The standard SILC cross-sectional weighting is usually produced roughly 10 months after the end of the field survey. Integrity checks, consolidation and the inclusion of register data (not available before March 2022 for the 2021 survey) are needed to produce this weighting. 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 and 2021. This experimental weighting includes a uniform correction for total non-response, without taking into account the specificities of the profiles. This option 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. This was applied to the same aspects as the final calibration of the standard weighting, but based on auxiliary register information from December 2019 instead of December 2020 (not available before March 2022). The experimental weighting used for COVID-19 purposes on SILC 2021 thus represents the population at the end of 2019 and not that at the end of 2020, as will be the case for the standard weighting for SILC 2021. The same time lags were applied to the experimental data for SILC 2020.

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 - 8 groups
  • Nationality group- 2 groups
  • 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 the household
  • Number of incomes from employment in household
  • Moved house (change of building) in past 2 years
  • Living space per household member

Variables taken 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

The separation of SILC 20 respondents (before or during the partial lockdown) requires a correction for differences in the profiles of respondents at the beginning of the survey (more willing to cooperate with this statistic) and those at the end. For this reason, the net sample of respondents before 16 March was processed separately from that of respondents between 16 March and 20 June (partial lockdown in Switzerland). This means that the two sub-samples each independently correspond to the population of December 2018. There was no separation of respondents for SILC 2021.

The distribution of weights in the experimental weighting of SILC 2020-COVID-19 or SILC-2021-COVID-19 is close to that of the standard SILC 2019 weighting.

Standard income generation is not feasible within the time frame of this experimental dissemination due to the unavailability of register information. To differentiate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis by the level of household income, the estimate of total household income provided at the time of the interview was used. This estimate is given by the respondent of the Household questionnaire for the whole household. An equivalence scale has been applied to this estimate so as to compare households of different sizes. Consistency analyses between the quintiles of the total equivalent household income estimate and those of the final equivalised disposable income (SILC 2019) showed sufficient enough consistency for the household estimate to be used as the breakdown variable. It should be noted that the equivalised disposable income standard for SILC covers income in the year prior to the interview, whereas the total household income estimate is for the time of the interview.