In-work poverty and its impact on family life. Child and parent perspectives

Gainful employment no longer protects against poverty. In Switzerland, 7.4% of the workforce are at risk of in-work poverty, in two-third of the affected households children are living. How do children and parent experience this situation?



Gainful employment - long understood as a means of reducing the risk of poverty - no longer necessarily protects against poverty. People with a low level of education, self-employed individuals, single parents or couples with three or more children, people who have a foreign, non-European nationality, work in low-wage sectors or under atypical forms of employment are those most likely affected by in-work poverty. In Switzerland, 4.2 % of all employed individuals, or about 157,000 persons, were affected by in-work poverty in 2021. If those at risk of poverty are included, this figure increases to 7.4 % of the workforce, or 279,000 people. The majority of the affected individuals live in multi-person households, with about two-thirds of these households containing children. The combination of low incomes, somatic and psychological impairments, and limited time resources due to the long working hours makes life challenging for these families. The risk of social conflicts is increased and the family situation has implications on childhood.

Course of action

In Switzerland, little research has been done to address the impact of in-work poverty on family life, including the associated caregiving responsibilities and the perspectives from both the children and parents. This project seeks to fill the gap by investigating the subjective experiences of family members affected by in-work poverty. It offers valuable insights on how families navigate the demands of gainful employment and how this effects caregiving. The research objectives are to examine the current effects of labor market changes on family dynamics, especially on the upbringing and the subjective experience of children. This research project aims to rethink care in the context of the evolving employment structures. A qualitative, multi-perspectivist approach is chosen to capture the different perspectives of the family members. Drawing form ethnography, the family life of 42 households through participant observation within the families, structured problem-centred interviews with the parents and unstructured “free conversation” with the children is documented. The data will be analysed using “in-depth-hermeneutic cultural analysis”. The analysis will be contextualized by capturing the legal, labour law, institutional and labour market factors and enriched by a discourse analysis of parliamentary debates.