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Switzerland - Overview

Contents extracted from the comprehensive atlas of international trade by Export Entreprises


Capital:: Bern
Area:: 41 km2
Total Population:: 7.997
Annual growth rate:: 1.00%
Density:: 200.00/km2
Urban population:: 74%
Population of Zurich (965), Geneva (500), Basel (490), Bern (340), Lausanne (310)
Official language: Switzerland has three official languages: German, French and Italian and four national languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch.
Other languages spoken: Serbo-Croatian, Albanian, Portuguese, Spanish, English.
Business language: Widely used.
Ethnic Origins:: Swiss German 65%, French Swiss 18%, Ticino 10%, Others 7%.
Beliefs: Roman Catholics (41.8%), Protestants (35.3%), Muslims (4.3%), Orthodox (1.8%), Other Christians (0.4%), Others (1%), Unspecified (4.3%), None (11.1%) (2000 census).
Telephone codes:
To make a call from: 0
To make a call to: +41
Internet suffix:: .ch
Type of State::
Federal republic based on parliamentary democracy. Confederation of 26 cantons (states/provinces) which enjoy fair amount of decentralization.
Type of economy::
High-income economy, OECD member
Fourth GDP per capita in the world; offshore financial services dominate the economy.

Economic overview

Switzerland has a highly successful market-based economy. Its standard of living, its industrial productivity, the quality of its education system, and its health-care system are amongst the highest in Europe.
After several years of growth rate above the European average, the Swiss economy contracted sharply in 2009 (-1.9%) due to the international financial crisis and further slowed down in 2012 (0.8%) in the context of the eurozone crisis. After a solid 2% growth in 2013, a faster growth is predicted for 2014 (2.2% of the GDP), driven by domestic demand. With the gradual improvement of the global situation, foreign trade should again return to its dynamic performance.

Switzerland is a prosperous country with a budget surplus (1.1 billion EUR in 2013). The country's only disadvantages are its strengths: since the Swiss franc has become a safe haven for investors, have exports have become more expensive and therefore have decreased, which negatively affects growth. The government has adopted measures to preserve the country's attractiveness as a financial center, while at the same time being forced to abandon the notion of bank secrecy. The 2012-2015  growht package is aimed at improving the prosperity of Swiss households, increasing productivity, reforming healthcare and agriculture and modernize public services (cyberadministration, administrative streamlining and mid-term priorities in public spenidng). The 2014 budget, slightly in surplus, introduces administrative cuts (especially in the army) and counts on postponing road infrastructure projects. The long-term maintenance of the high Swiss per capita revenue nevertheless requires increasing productivity. An initiative against massive immigration was accepted in February 2014. The country has pledged to phase out nuclear power by 2034, and reduce per capita energy consumption by 35% per year as compared to levels in 2000.

Switzerland’s unemployment rate, estimated at 3.7%, remains very low compared to the EU average. The country has the fourth highest GDP per capita rate in the world.

Main industries

Agriculture contributes around 1% to the GDP and employs 3% of the active population (only 10% of the land is suitable for cultivation). The primary agricultural products are livestock and dairy products. Swiss authorities grant numerous direct subsidies to farmers in order to meet strict ecological criteria such as soil protection. Organic farming is booming. There are hardly any mineral resources on Swiss soil. Agriculture is practiced on 40% of the territory, which also includes 9000 wineries.

Electricity is generated chiefly from hydraulic and nuclear power. Hydroelectric resources provide almost two-thirds of the country's energy. The strong industry sector is driven by large export groups. Switzerland is renowned worldwide for the high quality of its manufactured products, which include watches, motors, generators, turbines, and diverse high-technology products. Located in Basel, the chemical and pharmaceutical industry exports all over the world.

The service sector contributes to over 70% of the GDP and employs slightly under three quarters of the active workforce. The banking sector alone represents 8 % of the GDP. Well developed and globally competitive sectors such as banking, insurance, freight and transport, contribute substantially to the development of international trade across Switzerland. Tourism, which adds significantly to the economy, helps to balance Switzerland's trade deficit.

Foreign trade overview

Swiss economy is very much open to foreign trade, which represents more than 117% of the country’s GDP (2010-2012 average). The European Union (EU) is Switzerland's major trading partner, accounting for two-thirds of its total foreign trade. On 1st of June 2002, agreements were signed between the EU and Switzerland regarding seven main trade sectors. Exports account for approximately half of the country’s GDP. Switzerland's two main clients are the United States and the European Union.

Switzerland has a large trade surplus. Exports remained strong in 2012-2013 because the chemical/pharmaceutical sector is less dependent on the international economic situation than other sectors. In 2013, the trade surplus reached a record level of 24 billion CHF.


Switzerland is an attractive destination for foreign investors because of its economic and political stability, its transparent and fair legal system, its reliable and extensive infrastructures, and its efficient capital markets. Moreover, many tax incentives are offered by cantons (states), in order to attract companies to establish operations and invest in their jurisdictions. Some cantons go as far as to waive taxes for new firms for a period that can go up to ten years. The major laws governing foreign investment in Switzerland are the Swiss Code of Obligations, the Lex Friedrich/Koller, the Securities Law, and the Cartel Law. There is no screening of foreign investment, neither are there any sector or geographical preferences. The country experienced a marked increase in terms of FDI in-flow in recent years. However, because of the impact of the financial crisis and later the eurozone crisis, foreign investment has decreased significantly. In 2013, FDI declined by 98%, reaching only 0.2 billion USD.
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