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Swiss Confederation

[French] Suisse; (Confédération Suisse); [German] Schweiz; (Schweizerische
Eidgenossenschaft); [Italian] Svizzera; (Confederazione Svizzera);
[Romansch] Svizra (Confederaziun Helvetica)


FLAG: The national flag consists of an equilateral white cross on a red background, each arm of the cross being one-sixth longer than its width.

ANTHEM: The Swiss Hymn begins "Trittst in Morgenrot daher, Seh' ich dich in Strahlenmeer" ("Radiant in the morning sky, Lord, I see that Thou art nigh").

MONETARY UNIT: The Swiss franc (SwFr) of 100 centimes, or rappen, is the national currency. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and 1, 2, and 5 francs, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 francs. SwFr 1 = $0.81301 (or $1 = SwFr 1.23) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: The metric system is the legal standard.

HOLIDAYS: New Year, 12 January; Labor Day, 1 May; Christmas, 2526 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday, Easter Monday, Ascension, and Whitmonday.

TIME: 1 pm = noon GMT.


A landlocked country in central Europe, Switzerland has an area of 41,290 sq km (15,942 sq mi), extending 348 km (216 mi) ew and 220 km (137 mi) ns. Comparatively, the area occupied by Switzerland is slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. Bounded on the n by Germany, on the e by Liechtenstein and Austria, on the se and s by Italy, and on the w and nw by France, Switzerland has a total boundary length of 1,852 km (1,151 mi).

Switzerland's capital city, Bern, is located in the western part of the country.


Switzerland is divided into three natural topographical regions: (1) the Jura Mountains in the northwest, rising between Switzerland and eastern France; (2) the Alps in the south, covering three-fifths of the country's total area; and (3) the central Swiss plateau, or Mittelland, consisting of fertile plains and rolling hills that run between the Jura and the Alps. The Mittelland, with a mean altitude of 580 m (1,900 ft), covers about 30% of Switzerland and is the heartland of Swiss farming and industry; Zürich, Bern, Lausanne, and Geneva (Genève) are on the plateau. The central portion of the Alps, around the St. Gotthard Pass, is a major watershed and the source of the Rhine, which drains into the North Sea; of the Aare, a tributary of the Rhine; of the Rhône, which flows into the Mediterranean; and of the Ticino, a tributary of the Po, and of the Inn, a tributary of the Danube, which flow into the Adriatic and the Black seas, respectively.

The highest point in Switzerland is the Dufourspitze of Monte Rosa at 4,634 m (15,203 ft); the lowest is the shore of Lake Maggiore at less than 195 m (640 ft). The second-highest and most celebrated of the Swiss Alps is the Matterhorn (4,478 m/14,692 ft), long a challenge to mountaineers and first scaled in 1865.

Switzerland has 1,484 lakes, more than 12,900 smaller bodies of water, and many waterfalls. Lake Geneva (Léman), with an area of 581 sq km (224 sq mi), is considered the largest Swiss lake, though its southern shore is in France. Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake totally within Switzerland, has an area of 218 sq km (84 sq mi). Switzerland also contains more than 1,000 glaciers, many the relics of Pleistocene glaciation. The largest area of permanent ice is in the Valais.


The climate of Switzerland north of the Alps is temperate but varies with altitude, wind exposure, and other factors; the average annual temperature is 9°c (48°f). The average rainfall varies from 53 cm (21 in) in the Rhône Valley to 170 cm (67 in) in Lugano. Generally, the areas to the west and north of the Alps have a cool, rainy climate, with winter averages near or below freezing and summer temperatures seldom above 21°c (70°f). South of the Alps, the canton of Ticino has a warm, moist, Mediterranean climate, and frost is almost unknown. The climate of the Alps and of the Jura uplands is mostly raw, rainy, or snowy, with frost occurring above 1,830 m (6,000 ft).


Variation in climate and altitude produces a varied flora and fauna. In the lowest zone (below 550 m/1,800 ft), chestnut, walnut, cypress, and palm trees grow, as well as figs, oranges, and almonds; up to 1,200 m (3,940 ft), forests of beech, maple, and oak; around 1,680 m (5,500 ft), fir and pine; around 2,130 m (7,000 ft), rhododendron, larches, dwarf and cembra pine, and whortleberries; and above the snow line, more than 100 species of flowering plants, including the edelweiss. Wild animals include the chamois, boar, deer, otter, and fox. There are large birds of prey, as well as snipe, heath cock, and cuckoo. Lakes and rivers teem with fish. As of 2002, there were at least 75 species of mammals, 199 species of birds, and over 3,000 species of plants throughout the country.


The Swiss have long been aware of the need to protect their natural resources. Switzerland's federal forestry law of 1876 is among the world's earliest pieces of environmental legislation. Since 1953, provisions for environmental protection have been incorporated in the federal constitution. A measure creating a federal role in town and rural planning by allowing the central government to set the ground rules for the cantonal master plans took effect in January 1980.

Air pollution is a major environmental concern in Switzerland; automobiles and other transportation vehicles are the main contributors. In 2000, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 39.1 million metric tons. Strict standards for exhaust emissions were imposed on new passenger cars manufactured after October 1987. Water pollution is also a problem due to the presence of phosphates, fertilizers, and pesticides in the water supply. The nation has 40 cu km of renewable water resources, of which 73% of the annual withdrawal is used for industrial purposes. The country's cities have produced about 3.1 million tons of solid waste annually. On 1 November 1986, as a result of a fire in a chemical warehouse near Basel, in northern Switzerland, some 30 tons of toxic waste flowed into the Rhine River, killing an estimated 500,000 fish and eels. Despite a Swiss report in January 1987 that damage to the river had not been so great as was first thought, most environmentalists considered the chemical spill a major disaster.

Chemical contaminants and erosion damage the nation's soil and limit productivity. In 1986, the Swiss Federal Office of Forestry issued a report stating that 36% of the country's forests had been killed or damaged by acid rain and other types of air pollution.

Important environmental groups include the Swiss League for the Protection of Nature, founded in 1909; the Swiss Foundation for the Protection and Care of the Landscape, 1970; and the Swiss Society for the Protection of the Environment. The principal federal agency is the Department of Environment.

According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included 4 types of mammals, 8 species of birds, 1 species of amphibian, 4 species of fish, 30 species of invertebrate, and 2 species of plants. The northern bald ibis and the Italian spadefoot toad are extinct; the false ringlet butterfly, Italian agile frog, and marsh snail are threatened. The bear and wolf were exterminated by the end of the 19th century, but the lynx, once extinct in Switzerland, has been reestablished.


The population of Switzerland in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 7,446,000, which placed it at number 95 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 16% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 16% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 94 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.2%, a rate the government viewed as too low. The projected population for the year 2025 was 7,401,000. The population density was 180 per sq km (467 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 68% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that population in urban areas was declining at an annual rate of -0.06%. The capital city, Bern, had a population of 320,000 in that year. The largest metropolitan area is Zürich, with 984,000 residents in 2000. Other large cities and their estimated populations include Basel, 186,871; Geneva, 185,526; and Lausanne, 126,766.


Foreign residents in Switzerland comprised about 20% of the total population in 1998. Nearly a third of all resident foreigners were of Italian nationality; the former Yugoslavia, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Turkey were the next-leading countries of origin. In April 1987, Swiss voters approved a government plan to tighten rules on immigration and political asylum.

From the beginning of the civil war in Bosnia, Switzerland took in some 27,000 Bosnian refugees by 1997, granting most only temporary protection. In 1997, 8,000 singles and couples without children returned to Bosnia; another 2,800 returned voluntarily. Nonetheless, as a result of the drastic increase in the number of asylum seekers, Switzerland suspended its resettlement policy in mid-1998.

As a result of the Kosovo conflict, Switzerland again faced a major increase in asylum seekers in 1999. The Swiss government offered temporary protection to about 65,000 Kosovars living in the country. In 2004, Switzerland hosted 47,678 refugees, 18,633 asylum seekers, and 25 stateless persons. Main countries of origin for refugees included Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro, and Turkey. Asylum applications came from 19 countries of origin, the largest numbers from Bulgaria and Belarus. The net migration rate in 2005 was an estimated 3.58 migrants per 1,000 population. Worker remittances in 2002 were $146 million.


The four ethnolinguistic groups (Germanic, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romansch) that make up the native Swiss population have retained their specific characteristics. Originally, the country was inhabited by Celtic tribes in the west and south and by Rhaetians in the east. With the collapse of Roman rule, Germanic tribes poured in, among them the Alemanni and Burgundians. The Alemanni ultimately became the dominant group, and the present Alemannic vernacular (Schwyzertütsch, or Schweizerdeutsch) is spoken by nearly two-thirds of the total population as their principal language. About 65% of the population is German, 18% is French, 10% is Italian, 1% is Romansch, and 6% are of various other groups.


Switzerland is a multilingual state with four national languagesGerman, French, Italian, and Rhaeto-Romansch. About 63.7% of the resident population speaks German as their principal language, predominantly in northern, central, and western Switzerland; 19.2% speak French, mainly in the west and southwest; 7.6% Italian, primarily in the southern region closest to Italy; and 0.6% Rhaeto-Romansch, used widely only in the southeastern canton of Graubünden (Grisons). The remaining 8.9% speak various other languages. There are numerous local dialects.


Religious denominations as of a 2002 report stood at about 44% Roman Catholic, 47% Protestant, 4.5% Muslim, and about 1% Orthodox Christian. There are about 17,577 members of the Jewish community and about 11,748 Old Catholics. About 12% of the population claimed no religious affiliation.

There is no official state church and religious freedom is guaranteed. However, all of the cantons financially support at least one of three traditional denominationsRoman Catholic, Old Catholic, or Protestantwith money collected through taxes. In all cantons, individuals may also choose not to contribute to church taxes if they do not formally belong to a church. As a result, since the 1970s there has been a trend of individuals formally resigning their church membership in order to avoid church taxation. According to the latest statistics, about 41.8% of the population are Roman Catholic, 33% are Protestant, 4.3% are Muslim, and 1.8% are Orthodox Christians. Jews, Buddhists, Hindis, and other Christian churches each report membership of less than 1% of the population. About 11% have no church affiliation.


As of 2004, Switzerland's railway system consisted of 4,527 km (2,816 mi) of standard and narrow gauge track. Of that total, 3,232 km were standard gauge. Nearly all of the railway system (4,494 km/2,795 mi) was electrified. Because of its geographical position, Switzerland is an international railway center, with traffic moving from France, Germany, Austria, and northern Europe through the Simplon, Lötschberg, and St. Gotthard tunnels to Italy and southern Europe.

The Swiss road network covered 71,212 km (44,293 mi) in 2002, all of which was paved, and included 1,706 km (1,061 mi) of expressways. In 2003, there were 3,753,890 passenger cars, and 335,958 commercial vehicles. The longest road tunnel in the world, the 17-km (10.6-mi) St. Gotthard, in the Ticino, opened in September 1980.

Inland waterway (65 km/40 mi) traffic is an important component of Swiss transportation. Basel, the only river port, has direct connections to Strasbourg, the German Rhineland, the Ruhr, Rotterdam, and Antwerp. The Rhine-Rhône canal provides an alternative link between Basel and Strasbourg. There are 12 navigable lakes. During World War II, the Swiss organized a merchant marine to carry Swiss imports and exports on the high seas. In 2005, it consisted of 23 ships of 1,000 GRT or more, totaling 604,843 GRT. Switzerland's merchant fleet is larger than that of any other landlocked nation.

There were an estimated 65 airports in 2004. As of 2005, a total of 42 had paved runways and there were also two heliports. Swissair, partially owned by the federal and local governments, is the flag line of Switzerland. It has flights from the principal international airports at Zürich, Geneva (Cointrin), and Basel to major European cities, North and South America, the Middle East, Asia, and West Africa. In 2003, about 10.589 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international flights, and 1,248 million freight ton-km of service.


The Helvetii, a Celtic tribe conquered by Julius Caesar in 58 bc, were the first inhabitants of Switzerland (Helvetia) known by name. A Roman province for 200 years, Switzerland was a prosperous land with large cities (Avenches was the capital) and a flourishing trade. In ad 250, however, Switzerland was occupied by the Alemanni, a Germanic tribe, and in 433 by the Burgundians. The Franks, who defeated the Alemanni in 496 and the Burgundians about 534, incorporated the country into the Frankish Empire. Under Frankish rule, new cities were founded; others, such as Zürich and Lausanne, were rebuilt; and Christianity was introduced.

In 1032, some 200 years after the death of Charlemagne, king of the Franks, and the defeat of his weak successors, Switzerland became part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 13th century, it was placed under the House of Habsburg. Harsh domination resulted in the rebellion of several cities and the formation on 1 August 1291 of the "eternal alliance" between the three forest cantons of Schwyz, Uri, and Unterwalden, the first step toward the Swiss Confederation. The Habsburgs invaded the three provinces, but with their defeat at Morgarten Pass on 15 November 1315, the Swiss secured their independence. By 1353, five other cantons, Luzern (1332), Zürich (1351), Glarus and Zug (1352), and Bern (1353), had joined the confederacy. All these allies were called Swiss (Schwyzer), after the largest canton. Four victories over Austria (1386, 1388, 1476, and 1499) confirmed the confederation. The Swiss also defeated Charles of Burgundy, whose ambitions threatened their independence until his death in 1477. Complete independence was secured by the Treaty of Basel (1499) with the Holy Roman Empire. Switzerland thereafter remained unmolested by foreign troops until the French Revolution of 1789. Such legendary or real heroes as William Tell, Arnold von Winkelried, and Nikolaus von der Flüe symbolized Swiss bravery and love of freedom. The Helvetian Confederation (Eidgenossenschaft) continued to grow with the inclusion of Aargau (1415), Thurgau (1460), Fribourg and Solothurn (1481), Basel and Schaffhausen (1501), and Appenzell (1513). As of 1513, there were 13 cantons and several affiliated cities and regions. Swiss sovereignty reached south of the crest of the Alps into the Ticino. The Swiss also controlled many of the vital mountain passes linking southern and northern Europe.

The power of the Confederation was, however, undermined by conflicts stemming from the Reformation, led by Ulrich Zwingli in Zürich and John Calvin in Geneva. Seven cantons resisted the Reformation, and a prolonged conflict resulted. In its first round, Zwingli was killed in action (1531). The Catholic cantons later allied with Savoy and Spain. The struggle with the Protestant cantons centered during the Thirty Years' War (161848) on control of the Valtelline pass. The Treaty of Westphalia ending that war granted the Swiss Confederation formal recognition of independence by all European powers.

In the following centuries, the Catholic-Protestant conflict continued with varying success for each side. Apart from this struggle, a number of abortive uprisings against oligarchic control occurred in such places as Geneva and the canton of Vaud. The oligarchs were still in power in most cantons when the French Revolution broke out. With the progress of the revolution, radical groups gained the upper hand in several cities. In 1798, the Helvetic Republic was proclaimed, under French tutelage, and during the Napoleonic imperial era Switzerland was governed as an appendage of France. Boundaries were partly redrawn, and six new cantons were added to the original 13.

In 1815, the Congress of Vienna reconstituted the independent Swiss Confederation with three additional cantons (for a total of 22) and recognized its perpetual neutrality. Switzerland, however, did not remain untouched by the great conflict between liberalism and conservatism that affected all of Europe in the first half of the 19th century. Many revolutionaries found temporary refuge in Switzerland and influenced some of its citizens. Under their goading, several cantons introduced more progressive governments and liberalized their old constitutions.

In 1848, a new federal constitution, quite similar to that of the United States, was promulgated. Meanwhile, the struggle between Protestants and Catholics had culminated in the Secession (Sonderbund) War of 1847, in which the Protestant cantons quickly overcame the secessionist movement of the seven Catholic cantons. As a result of the war, federal authority was greatly strengthened.

In 1874, the constitution was again revised to enlarge federal authority, especially in fiscal and military affairs. Since the last quarter of the 19th century, Switzerland has been concerned primarily with domestic matters, such as social legislation, communications, and industrialization. In foreign affairs, it remained rigidly neutral through both world wars, resolutely determined to protect its independence with its highly reputed militia. In 1978, Switzerland's 23rd sovereign canton, Jura, was established by nationwide vote. In 1991, Switzerland celebrated the 700th anniversary of Confederation.

Despite its neutrality, Switzerland has cooperated wholeheartedly in various international organizations, offering home and hospitality to such diverse bodies as the League of Nations, the Red Cross, and the UPU. Switzerland has long resisted joining the UN, however, partly on the grounds that imposition of sanctions, as entailed in various UN resolutions, is contrary to a policy of strict neutrality. In a March 1986 referendum, a proposal for UN membership, approved by the Federal Assembly, was rejected by Swiss voters. Switzerland is a member of most specialized UN agencies and is a party to the Statute of the International Court of Justice. Swiss attitudes toward UN membership changed at the beginning of the 21st century, as citizens decreasingly saw participation in the UN as jeopardizing the country's neutrality. In a referendum held on 3 March 2002, nearly 55% of Swiss voters approved of joining the UN, but approval by the country's 23 cantons received a narrower 12 to 11 vote. On 10 September 2002 Switzerland became a full member of the UN.

Foreign governments have targeted Switzerland's tight bank secrecy laws as providing a haven for tax evasion and money laundering. The EU maintains that if Switzerland were to join the body, such laws would have to be reformed. Switzerland suffered from the global economic downturn that began in 2001; it employs 220,000 people (out of a total population of some seven million) in financial services, of which more than half work in banking. The Swiss have also expressed ambivalence toward Europe. In December 1992, the Swiss rejected participation in the two major European organizationsthe European Economic Area (EEA) of the European Union (EU). Fearing adverse effects from nonparticipation, the Swiss government has taken steps to bring the country's laws and economy into harmony with the EEA. Because of the fact that all legislation can be subjected to referenda, however, the government is finding it difficult to alter certain protectionist policies and to lower certain barriers. Officially, the government is committed to eventually joining the EU, although in order to do so it will have to convince a majority of voters it is the correct path.

In a blow to Euro skeptics, in June 2005 voters, in a referendum endorsed by a 5545% majority, planned to join the other European Union members then in the Schengen passport-free travel zone. Voters also approved joining the EU's Dublin agreement on handling asylum seekers, and of participating in further coordination of policing and crime-fighting. In September 2005, a bilateral accord on the free movement of labor to the 10 newest EU member states was approved in a referendum.

In October 2003, the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) became the largest force in the National Council after winning 26.6% of the vote in general elections. That December, parliament decided to grant the SVP the second post in the seven-seat government at the expense of the Christian Democrats, altering the "magic formula" which had brought stability to Swiss politics since 1959.


The Swiss Confederation is a federal union governed, until 2000, under the constitution of 1874, which vested supreme authority in the Federal Assembly, the legislative body, and executive power in the Federal Council. On 1 January 2000, a new federal constitution entered into force, replacing the 1874 constitution. The new constitution formally separates and codifies four pillars of Swiss constitutional law: democracy; the rule of law; social welfare; and federalism. Fundamental rights, such as freedom of speech and assembly, which had not been explicitly mentioned in the 1874 constitution, now received their formal expression.

The Federal Assembly consists of two chambers: the National Council (Nationalrat ) of 200 members, elected by direct ballot for four-year terms by citizens 18 years of age or older, and the Council of States (Ständerat ) of 46 members, two appointed by each of the 20 cantons, and one from each of the six half-cantons, and paid by the cantons; deputies are elected according to the laws of the cantons. Legislation must be approved by both houses.

The Federal Council of seven members is elected for four-year terms by joint session of the Federal Assembly. The president and vice president of the Federal Council and of the Confederation are elected by the assembly for one-year terms and cannot be reelected to the same office until after the expiration of another year. The seven members of the Federal Council, which has no veto power, are the respective heads of the main departments of the federal government. After general elections held in October 2003, the four-party power-sharing agreement known as the "magic formula"whereby the Free Democrats, Social Democrats, and Christian Democrats each held two seats, and the Swiss People's Party held one seatwas disturbed, as the SVP, which had campaigned on an antiforeigner and anti-EU platform, became the largest party in parliament. The Christian Democrats forfeited one seat to the SVP. After the 2004 election for president, the Federal Council elected Samuel Schmid. The Federal Council meets in secret and tries to appear congenial at all times. Moritz Luenberger won the 2005 election and took office 8 January 2006.

The cantons are sovereign in all matters not delegated to the federal government by the constitution and may force federal law to a plebiscite by the right of referendum. In addition, by popular initiative, 50,000 citizens may demand a direct popular vote on any legislation or regulation proposed by the federal government, and 100,000 citizens may demand a referendum on a constitutional revision. Any proposed amendments to the constitution must be submitted for public approval.

In 1971, Swiss women were granted the right to vote in federal elections. In November 1990, the Federal Court ruled in favor of female suffrage in the half-canton of Appenzell-Inner Rhoden, the last area with male-only suffrage.


Swiss politics are generally stable, and until 2003, the strengths of the chief political parties varied little over the past several decades. The conduct of national-level politics is generally calm and is marked by mutual esteem and cooperation. On the cantonal and municipal levels, however, the give-and-take of political life is more lively and unrestrained, as well as more partisan. The ruling Federal Council is made up of what the Swiss refer to as the "magic formula" coalition, an informal, but strictly adhered to, arrangement whereby the four largest political parties fill the seven positions on the Federal Council. The four strongest parties are now the Swiss People's Party, a right-wing, xenophobic and anti-EU party; the Social Democratic Party, similar to the Scandinavian Social Democrats, which advocates wider state participation in industry and strong social legislation; the Radical Free Democratic Party, a progressive middle-class party, which favors increased social welfare, strengthening of national defense, and a democratic federally structured government; and the Christian Democrats (formerly the Christian Social-Conservatives), a clerical federalist party, which opposes centralization of power. The Swiss People's Party was formed in 1971 by a union of the Farmers, Traders, and Citizens Party, which favored agrarian reform, protective tariffs, and a stronger national defense, and the Democratic Party, a leftist middle-class group. Other parties include the League of Independents, a progressive, middle-class consumers' group; the Communist-inclined Workers Party, with some strength in Zürich, Basel, and Geneva; the Liberal Party; and the Independent and Evangelical Party, which is Protestant, federalist, and conservative. In 1985, two small right-wing parties were formed: the National Socialist Party and the Conservative and Liberal Movement.

After the October 1991 elections the Radical Democratic Party held 44 seats, Social Democrats 42 seats, Christian Democrats 37 seats, Swiss People's Party 25 seats, Greens 14 seats, Liberals 10 seats, and minor parties, 28 seats.

In the Council of States, the 46 seats were distributed as follows in 1991: Radical Democratic Party 18 seats, Christian Democrats 16 seats, Social Democrats 4 seats, Liberals 3 seats, Independents 1 seat, and Ticino League 1 seat.

The 1995 elections for the National Council saw the Radical Democratic Party take 45 seats; the Social Democratic Party, 54; the Christian Democratic People's Party, 34; the Swiss People's Party, 30; the Greens, 8; the Liberal Party, 7; the Alliance of Independents Party, 6; the Swiss Democratic Party, 3; the Evangelical People's Party, 3; the Workers' Party, 2; and the Ticino League, 2.

In the Council of States, the 46 seats were distributed as follows: Radical Democrats, 17; Christian Democrats, 17; Swiss People's Party, 4; Social Democrats, 3; Liberals, 3; Independents, 1; Ticino League, 1.

Following the October 1999 elections, the Social Democratic Party took 51 seats; the Swiss People's Party took 44; the Radical Democratic Party, 43; Christian Democrats, 35; Greens, 9; Liberals, 6; Evangelical People's Party, 3; the xenophobic Swiss Democratic Party, 1; the conservative Federal Democratic Union, 1; the Workers' Party, 2; the Ticino League, 2; Independents, 1; the socialist party Solidarities, 1; and the progressive Christian Social Party, 1.

In the Council of States after the 1999 elections, the Radical Democratic Party held 18 seats; the Christian Democrats held 15; the Swiss People's Party had 7; and the Social Democrats held 6.

Following the 2003 elections, in the National Council the Swiss People's Party took 55 seats; the Social Democratic Party took 54; the Radical Free Democratic Party took 36; the Christian Democrats took 28; the Greens took 13; and other small parties held 14 seats. In the Council of States the Christian Democrats took 15 seats; the Radical Free Democrats took 14; the Swiss People's Party took 8; the Social Democrats took 6; and others held three seats. The next elections were scheduled to take place October 2007.


The Swiss Confederation consists of 23 sovereign cantons, three of which are divided into half-cantons (i.e., 20 cantons and six half-cantons). The most recent of these, Jura, was formed from six French-speaking districts in the German-speaking area of Bern Canton in 1978. In 1993, the German-speaking Laufental district of Beru joined the canton of Basel-Land. This was the first time a political unit in Switzerland left one canton to join another. Swiss cantons are highly autonomous and exercise wide administrative control, with the weak federal government controlling only foreign affairs, national security, customs, communications, and monetary policy. The cantons have their own constitutions and laws, and are responsible for their own public works, education, care of the poor, justice, and police forces. Local forms of government vary, but each canton has a legislative council (called Grand Conseil, Grosser Rat, Kantonsrat, or Gran Consiglio), which appoints a chief executive. In a few of the small cantons, the general assembly of all voting citizens, or Landesgemeinde, decides on major matters by voice vote; in the majority of the cantons, this ancient institution has been replaced by referendum. Communes, numbering over 3,000, are the basic units of local government. For the most part, Swiss districts (Bezirke), constituting a middle level of organization between the cantons and communes, are little more than judicial circuits.


The Federal Court of Justice in Lausanne is composed of 30 permanent members appointed for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly. Until 2000, the court had both original and final jurisdiction in the majority of cases where a canton or the federal government was involved, and was the highest appeals court for many types of cases. Judicial reforms carried out in 2000 reduced the caseload of the Federal Court, by creating a federal criminal court and federal administrative bodies with judicial competence. Now, the Federal Court exists as a pure appellate court.

Each canton has its own cantonal courts. District courts have three to five members and try lesser criminal and civil cases. Each canton has an appeals court and a court of cassation, the jurisdiction of which is limited to reviewing judicial procedures. Capital punishment was abolished in 1942. Minor cases are tried by a single judge, difficult cases by a panel of judges, and murder and other serious crimes by a public jury.

The judiciary is independent and free from interference by other branches of government. The trials are fair and the judicial process is efficient. The judicial system is based on civil law influenced by customary law. Switzerland accepts compulsory jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.


Switzerland's armed forces in 2005 were built around a core of 4,300 active military personnel and a well-trained force of 210,000 citizen-soldier reservists that can be mobilized within 48 hours. The country has universal compulsory military service for males at age 1920, followed by varied annual training requirements until age 42 (55 for officers), with exemption only for physical disability. Initial basic training of 15 weeks is followed by regular short training periods. In addition, there is also a paramilitary civil defense force of 105,000 members. When fully mobilized, Switzerland's land forces (Army) would have an estimated manpower of 153,200, with 355 main battle tanks, 446 reconnaissance vehicles, 127 armored infantry fighting vehicles, 1049 armored personnel carriers, and 1,008 artillery pieces. The land forces also have a marine arm that is outfitted with 10 patrol/coastal boats. The air force, when fully mobilized, had an estimated 32,900 personnel and has 90 combat capable aircraft, including 57 fighters and 33 fighter ground attack aircraft.

Swiss fighting men are world famous, and from the 16th to the 19th century some two million Swiss served as mercenaries in foreign armies. The modern Swiss citizen-soldier is trained only for territorial defense in prepared mountain positions, which is his only mission. A continuing legacy of Swiss mercenary service is the ceremonial Vatican Swiss Guard. Switzerland has military personnel deployed to eight countries or regions under UN, NATO, European Union or other auspices. The military budget in 2005 totaled $3.82 billion.


Although it was a member of and served as the site for the League of Nations, Switzerland was not a member of the United Nations until 10 September 2002, partly from a fear of compromising traditional Swiss neutrality. The country participates in ECE and in several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, the World Bank, ILO, IAEA, and the WHO. Switzerland has actively participated in the OSCE. The nation is also a member of the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Council of Europe, the Paris Club, the Inter-American Development Bank, OSCE, EFTA, the WTO, and the OECD. Switzerland holds observer status in the OAS and the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA). The headquarters of the International Committee of the Red Cross is located in Geneva. Switzerland is also the repository of the Geneva Convention, governing treatment of civilians, prisoners, and the wounded in wartime.

Switzerland is part of the NATO Partnership for Peace and a guest of the Nonaligned Movement. The nation has supported UN missions and operations in Kosovo (est. 1999), Ethiopia and Eritrea (est. 2000), and the DROC (est. 1999). Switzerland is part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Nuclear Energy Agency.

In environmental cooperation, Switzerland is part of the Antarctic Treaty; the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; CITES; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on Climate Change and Desertification.


Because of the paucity of its minerals and other raw materials and its limited agricultural production, Switzerland depends upon imports of food and fodder and industrial raw materials, which it finances with exports of manufactured goods. Agriculture is important (in agriculture, Switzerland is about 60% self-sufficient) though limited by a scarcity of level and fertile land, but manufacturing engages more than five times as many workers as farming. Swiss manufacturers excel in quality of workmanship rather than quantity of output. Other important branches of the economy include international banking, insurance, tourism, and transportation. Switzerland ranks among leading countries in research and development (R&D), and is among the world's top five countries for R&D for biotech and nanotechnology.

Switzerland was less affected than most other nations by the worldwide recession of the early 1980s and experienced a strong recovery beginning in 1983. However, between 1986 and 1992, GNP grew by an annual average of only 0.7% and it fell in 1991, 1992, and 1993. From 199395, growth averaged barely 1% a year and decreased once again in 1996. In 1998, however, the economy grew by 2% and by 1.9% in 1999, before soaring, relatively speaking, to 3.4% in 2000. Switzerland's economy was in recession in 2002: the global international slowdown in 2001 and the appreciation of the Swiss franc brought small contractions in 2001 (-0.9%) and 2002 (-0.2%). The financial sector was particularly affected by the slowdown in the economy. However, by 2004, the economy was growing by 1.7%, thanks to eastern and Asian export markets. The GDP growth rate was forecast for 1.5% in 2006 and 2% in 2007.

From 1990 to 1992, the annual inflation rate averaged 5.1%. By 1994 inflation had plummeted to 0.9%; it was 1.8% in 1995, 0.8% in 1996, and 0% in 1998. From 1999 to 2002, average annual inflation was about 1%. In 2004, the inflation rate stood at 0.9% and at 1.1% in 2005. Despite high oil prices forecast for 2006, inflation was expected to remain low. Swiss unemployment has remained consistently low in comparison with other countries, although it reached an unusually high 4.5% in 1993. In 1994 unemployment was 3.8%, and 3.6% in 1998rates a fraction of France and Germany. Unemployment fell further, to an average annual rate of 2.3%, 1999 to 2002. The unemployment rate in 2004 had risen to 3.4%, and young workers (ages 1525) were particularly hard hit, as were restaurant and hotel industry workers. Meanwhile, the Swiss GDP per capitain 2004, $48,596 in market exchange rate terms and $34,160 in purchasing power parity (PPP) termscontinued to be among the highest in the world.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Switzerland's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $262.1 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $35,000. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 1.2%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 1.2%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 1.5% of GDP, industry 34%, and services 64.5%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $1.709 billion or about $233 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.5% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Switzerland totaled $167.22 billion or about $22,751 per capita based on a GDP of $320.1 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 1.3%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 19% of household consumption was spent on food, 9% on fuel, 3% on health care, and 18% on education.


In 2005, the Swiss workforce numbered an estimated 3.8 million. As of 2003, the service sector employed 72% of the labor force, with 23.9% engaged in industry, and 4.1% in agriculture. Foreign workers account for about 30% of the country's workforce. In 2005, Switzerland's unemployment rate was estimated at 3.8%.

About 25% of the labor force was unionized in 2005. Swiss law provides for and regulates union organization and collective bargaining. Most labor disputes are settled on the basis of a so-called peace agreement existing since 1937 between the head organizations of employers and employees. Other collective disputes are dealt with by the various cantonal courts of conciliation. Strikes are rare and Switzerland generally records the lowest number of days lost to strikes in the OECD. Approximately 50% of the country's labor force in 2005 was covered by collective bargaining agreements.

The legally mandated maximum workweek is set at 45 hours for blue- and white-collar workers in the services, industrial and retail sectors. A 50-hour workweek covers the rest. Minors as young as 13 may perform light work for up to nine hours per week during the school year and 15 hours otherwise. There are severe restrictions on the hours and conditions of employment of workers until the age of 20. There is no government mandated minimum wage. The Federal Labor Act and the Code of Obligations mandate various other workplace requirements.


Some 443,000 hectares (1,095,000 acres), or about 10.8% of the country's total land area, is under seasonal or permanent crops. Most of the cultivable land is in the Mittelland, or central plateau, and the cantons regularly producing the largest quantities of wheat are Bern, Vaud, Fribourg, Zürich, and Aargau. Soil quality is often poor, but yields have been increasing as a result of modern technology. In 2003, agriculture contributed 2% to GDP.

Agricultural production provides only about 60% of the nation's food needs. Although productivity per worker has been increasing steadily, the proportion of the total labor force engaged in agriculture has fallen from 30% in 1900 to about 4.2% in 2000. Between 1955 and 2003, the number of farm holdings fell from 205,997 to 65,866. Some principal crops, with their production figures for 2004, were as follows: potatoes, 484,000 tons; sugar beets, 1,340,000 tons; wheat, 456,000 tons; barley, 230,000 tons; maize, 220,000 tons; oats, 35,000 tons; and rye, 20,000 tons. In the same year, an estimated 11.6 million liters of wine were produced, and there were 15,000 hectares (37,000 acres) of vineyards.

Swiss agricultural policy is highly regulated, with fixed prices and quota restrictions maintained on several products. Domestic production is encouraged by the imposition of protective customs and duties on imported goods, and by restrictions on imports. The Federal Council has the authority to fix prices of bread grains, flour, milk, and other foodstuffs. Production costs in Switzerland, as well as international exchange rates favorable to the Swiss franc, make competition with foreign products difficult. This highly protectionist system has led to excess production and mounting costs associated with the management of surpluses. The Uruguay Round and subsequent Swiss implementation of its provisions in July 1995 (along with rising costs in the agricultural sector) has forced the government to begin reforming its agricultural support system.


More than half of Switzerland's productive area is grassland exploited for hay production and/or grazing. Livestock production contributes about 2% to GDP. Dairying and cattle breeding are practiced, more or less intensively, in all but the barren parts of the country and, during the summer months, even at altitudes of more than 1,200 m (4,000 ft). In 2005 there were 1,540,000 head of cattle and 1,594,000 pigs, 443,000 sheep and 74,000 goats. Meat production in 2005 included (in tons): pork, 233,000; beef, 134,000; poultry, 58,000; mutton/lamb, 6,000; and horse meat, 1,000. Swiss cheeses are world famous; production was 178,000 tons in 2005. That year, 34,000 tons of eggs were produced.

While home production almost covers or exceeds the domestic requirements for milk and dairy products, substantial quantities of eggs and meat must be imported. New agricultural reforms for 200407 entail the progressive abolition of the milk quota system, and changes in import tariffs for meat. Selective cattle breeding, research, and improvement of production standards are promoted by the federal government and by farmers' cooperatives. Exports of milk, dairy products, and eggs amounted to $467.6 million in 2004.


Fishing is relatively unimportant but is carried on in many Swiss rivers and on lakes Constance, Neuchâtel, and Geneva. The total catch was 2,950 tons in 2003. Rainbow trout, whitefish, and perch are the main species. Local fish supply about 12% of domestic needs.


Forests occupied 1,199,000 hectares (2,962,000 acres) in 2000. About two-thirds of the forested land is owned by communes; most of the remainder is owned privately. Federal and cantonal governments account for about 8%. About 80% of the wood in Swiss forests is coniferous, primarily spruce; the remaining 20% is deciduous, predominantly red beech.

The timber cut yielded 4,713,000 cu m (166 million cu ft) of roundwood in 2004, with 21% used as fuel wood. The government estimates that the annual cut represents only two-thirds of potential. Forestry production in 2004 amounted to about 1,505,000 cu m (53 million cu ft) of sawnwood, 1,777,000 tons of paper and paperboard, and 271,000 tons of wood pulp. The trade deficit in forestry products amounted to $169 million in 2004.


Mining, exclusively of industrial minerals for construction, played a minor role in Switzerland's economy. Metal mining has ceased, reserves of the small deposits of iron, nickel-cobalt, gold, and silver were mostly depleted, and new mining activities were discouraged for environmental reasons. Industrial minerals produced in 2004 included hydraulic cement, common clay, gravel, gypsum, lime, nitrogen, salt, sand, stone, and sulfur (from petroleum refining). Metal processing, restricted to primary and secondary aluminum, secondary lead, and steel, depended on imported raw materials or scrap. Environmental concerns have led to a policy to curtail or gradually cease smelting activities. The production and export of chemicals were among the nation's leading industries. Steel was another leading export commodity. A large diamond center, Switzerland was actively involved in cutting and polishing diamonds, and played a big role in international trade activities.


Switzerland is heavily dependent on imported oil, natural gas and coal to meet its hydrocarbon needs, although it does have the refining capacity to permit a modest amount of refined petroleum products to be exported.

In 2002, Switzerland's imports of all petroleum products averaged 277,350 barrels per day, of which 99,860 barrels per day were crude oil. Total refinery output in 2002 averaged 104,280 barrels per day. Demand for refined oil products in 2002 averaged 267,230 barrels per day, allowing Switzerland to export an average of 11,550 barrels per day of refined oil products.

In 2002, Switzerland's imports and consumption of natural gas each totaled 107.18 billion cu ft. Coal imports that year totaled 169,000 short tons, with demand at 221,000 short tons.

Switzerland's electric power plants had an installed capacity of 17.268 million kW in 2002, of which hydroelectric plants accounted for 13.240 million kW of capacity, followed by nuclear plants at 3.200 million kW, conventional thermal plants at 0.453 million kW and geothermal/other plants at 0.375 million kW. Electricity production in 2002 totaled 63.240 billion kWh, of which 1.6% was from fossil fuels, 55.1% from hydropower, 40.9% from nuclear power, and 2.3% from renewable sources.


Manufacturing industries contributed 34% of GDP in 2003. The industrial growth rate in 2004 was 4.7%. Swiss industries are chiefly engaged in the manufacture, from imported raw materials, of highly finished goods for domestic consumption and for export. Most of the industrial enterprises are located in the plains and the Swiss plateau, especially in the cantons of Zürich, Bern, Aargau, St. Gallen, Solothurn, Vaud, Basel (Baselstadt and Baselland), and Thurgau. Some industries are concentrated in certain regions: the watch and jewelry industry in the Jura Mountains; machinery in Zürich, Geneva, and Basel; chemical industries (dyes and pharmaceuticals) in Basel; and the textile industry in northeastern Switzerland. In 1993, the industrial sector was targeted for assistance by a government-initiated revitalization program; in 1995, the sector again benefited from government policy when the turnover tax was replaced by a value-added tax system, expected to relieve industry of SwFr12 billion per year in taxes. Switzerland, along with Germany and Japan, is at the forefront of the emerging industry of environmental technology.

The textile industry, using wool, cotton, silk, and synthetics, is the oldest Swiss industry and, despite foreign competition resulting from the elimination of textile quotas by the World Trade Organization in 2005, remains important. The machine industry, first among Swiss industries today, produces goods ranging from heavy arms and ammunition to fine precision and optical instruments. Switzerland is the world's largest exporter of watches and watch products (followed by Hong Kong and China), with exports worth $9 billion in 2004. For the first half of 2005, Swiss watch exports were up 11% over the same period in 2004 and exceeding forecasts. Chemicals, especially dyes and pharmaceuticals, also are important. As of 2003, Switzerland had a 4.3% share of the world export of chemical and pharmaceutical products, and ranked 9th among the largest export nations. Pharmaceutical exports as a percentage of total chemical industry exports increased from 40% in 1980 to 70.3% in 2003. Switzerland has also developed a major food industry, relying in part on the country's capacity for milk production. Condensed milk was first developed in Switzerland, as were two other important processed food products: chocolate and baby food. The Swiss company Nestlé S. A., headquartered in Vevey, is one of the world's largest food companies. In addition to Switzerland's major industries, such as textiles, nonmetallic minerals, and watch making and clock making, others, such as chemicals, plastics, and paper, have grown rapidly.


The major scientific learned societies, headquartered in Bern, are the Swiss Academy of Sciences, founded in 1815, and the Swiss Academy of Engineering Sciences, founded in 1981. About two-thirds of the funds for Swiss research and development (R&D), a high proportion by world standards, are supplied by industry and the rest by federal and cantonal governments. In 2000 (the latest year for which data was available), expenditures for R&D totaled $5,316.302 million, or 2.63% of GDP. Of that amount, the business sector accounted for 69.1%, followed by the government at 23.2%, foreign sources at 4.3%, higher education at 2.1% and private nonprofit organizations at 1.4%. For that same year, there were 3,594 scientists and 2,315 technicians per million people, that were engaged in R&D. The Swiss National Science Foundation was established in 1952 to finance noncommercial research for which funds would not otherwise be available. Most such spending is in the important chemicals sector. The Ministry of Public Economy, the center for federal agricultural research, has six research stations. In 2002, high-tech exports were valued at $17.077 billion and accounted for 21% of manufactured exports. In that same year, of all bachelor's degrees awarded, 25.7% were for the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, engineering).


Zürich, the largest city, is the commercial, financial, and industrial center of Switzerland. Basel is the second most important commercial city, followed by Geneva and Lausanne. Most Swiss wholesale firms are importers as well, specializing in one commodity or a group of related commodities.

The trend in retail trade is moving from independent establishments to larger supermarkets, department stores, and discount chains. As such, many small retailers have joined together to form purchasing cooperatives. However, Switzerland is a challenging market for franchising, due to Switzerland's limited market size, high salaries, and high costs of services; also, consumer preference for high quality and authentic products or a new innovative idea over already existing products is another challenge facing potential franchisees. Companies sponsoring home shopping parties (Tupperware, Mary Kay, Body Shop, etc.) have become very popular. Some agricultural products, such as butter, grains, and edible fats and oils, are subject to import controls and price controls apply to many goods and services. The use of electronic debit cards for purchases is growing rapidly.

Advertising, mostly entrusted to firms of specialists, uses as media billboards, movie theaters, television, local transportation facilities, railroads, newspapers, and magazines.

Usual business hours are from 8 or 9 am to 5 or 6 pm. Shops are normally open from 9 am to 6:30 pm on weekdays but only to 5 pm on Saturdays; some shops close from 12 pm to 2 pm at lunchtime. In larger cities, shops generally extend their hours until 8 pm on one evening of the week, usually Thursday. Banks are open to the public from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm MondayFriday.


Switzerland's export commodities are split into two categories: machinery sold to other manufacturers, and commodities used by consumers. The country exports a large number of the world's watches and clocks.

While Switzerland is not a member of the EU, it has been seeking ways to adopt some of the advantages of membership without relinquishing sovereignty. As of 2005, 62% of Swiss exports were destined for the EU market. As of 2004, Switzerland's main export partners, in order of importance, were Germany, the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Spain. By that date, Switzerland's primary import partners were Germany, Italy, France, the United States, the Netherlands, and Austria.


In the past, Switzerland typically had a foreign trade deficit. More recently, however, this imbalance was more than compensated for by income from services, investments, insurance, and tourism. Restructuring of enterprises in the 1990s, due to the strength of the Swiss franc, caused the export-oriented manufacturing sector to become highly successful. Exports of goods and services amounted to some 46% of GDP in 2000.

In 2004, merchandise exports totaled $138.2 billion, and merchandise imports $122.6 billion, for a trade surplus of $15.6 billion. The current account surplus amounted to $50.6 billion, equivalent to 14.2% of GDP, making Switzerland a net creditor nation.


In 2000, Switzerland had two major banks, 24 cantonal banks, and numerous foreign-owned banks, savings banks, and other banks and finance companies. There were a total of 375 banks in the country in that year. The bank balance-sheet total per capita in Switzerland is higher than that of any other nation in the world. Total assets of the Swiss banking system amounted to $1.3 trillion at the end of 2000, while total securities deposits were $3.4 trillion. Moreover, registered banks and bank-like finance companies numbered 494 in 1995, offering the Swiss, on average, the greatest access to banking services of all the world's nations.

The government-supervised Swiss National Bank, incorporated in 1905 and the sole bank of issue, is a semiprivate institution owned by the cantons, by former banks of issue, and by the public. The National Bank acts as a central clearinghouse and participates in many foreign and domestic banking operations. The two big banks, (United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) and Credit Suisse Group) dominate the Swiss banking scene and are expanding aggressively overseas. They are universal banks, providing a full range of services to all types of customers.

Regional banks specialize in mortgage lending and credits for small businesses. Since 1994, most of the country's regional banks have been linked in a common holding company providing back-office operations and other services to members in a bid to cut costs.

Foreign banks make up about a third of banks active in Switzerland. In contrast to domestic banks, their numbers have risen over the last decade but their business is increasingly focused on asset management, mostly of funds from abroad. On 1 January 1995 a new banking law came into effect allowing for foreign banks to open subsidiaries, branches, or representative offices in the country without first getting approval of the Federal Banking Commission.

The transactions of private and foreign banks doing business in Switzerland traditionally play a significant role in both Swiss and

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 100,693.3 96,447.6 4,245.7
Germany 20,983.7 31,144.1 -10,160.4
United States 11,375.2 5,325.0 6,050.2
France-Monaco 8,806.4 10,395.6 -1,589.2
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 8,323.9 10,299.0 -1,975.1
United Kingdom 4,894.8 3,910.3 984.5
Japan 4,019.9 2,028.3 1,991.6
Spain 3,536.1 2,262.4 1,273.7
Austria 3,323.7 4,079.2 -755.5
Netherlands 3,273.6 4,813.4 -1,539.8
China, Hong Kong SAR 2,976.2 482.2 2,494.0
() data not available or not significant.
Current Account 43,292.0
   Balance on goods 6,961.0
      Imports -108,482.0
      Exports 115,443.0
   Balance on services 15,066.0
   Balance on income 26,429.0
   Current transfers -5,166.0
Capital Account -763.0
Financial Account -30,136.0
   Direct investment abroad -15,926.0
   Direct investment in Switzerland 12,603.0
   Portfolio investment assets -32,902.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities -1,662.0
   Financial derivatives
   Other investment assets -4,631.0
   Other investment liabilities 12,383.0
Net Errors and Omissions -8,988.0
Reserves and Related Items -3,405.0
() data not available or not significant.

foreign capital markets; however, precise accounting of assets and liabilities in this sector are not usually made available as public information. Switzerland's strong financial position and its tradition (protected by the penal code since 1934) of preserving the secrecy of individual bank depositors have made it a favorite depository with persons throughout the world. (However, Swiss secrecy provisions are not absolute and have been lifted to provide information in criminal investigations.) The Swiss Office for Compensation executes clearing traffic with foreign countries.

In 1997, Swiss banks came under heavy criticism for losing track of money, gold, and other valuables belonging to Jewish Holocaust victims and held by the banks during World War II. Records also showed the banks had closed thousands of victims' accounts without notice after the war. The banks claimed they had lost the old records, but a group of journalists found the records archived in Lausanne in April of that year.

Also in 1997, an embarrassed Swiss government selected four members to a panel empowered to run a fund for Holocaust victims. Nobel laureate, Elie Weisel, a concentration camp survivor, turned down an invitation to serve as one of the three foreign members on the board. The fund, intended to help impoverished Holocaust victims and their families, is supported by funds appropriated by Nazis from Jews sent to concentration camps. Much of the gold, jewels, bonds, and currency taken by the Nazis had been placed in Swiss banks. In March 1998, Switzerland's banks agreed to create a $1.25 billion fund designed to compensate Holocaust survivors and their families.

Swiss banks were also under fire in 1997 for possibly facilitating money laundering of drug money accrued by a former Mexican president's brother and for failing to adequately recover the billions of dollars supposedly plundered by former Zairian dictator Mobuto Sese Seko, who was overthrown that year. All the negative publicity has caused some to question the usefulness of Swiss banks' much-lauded secrecy.

The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $102.9 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $326.3 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 1.65%. The discount rate, the interest rate at which the central bank lends to financial institutions in the short term, was 1.59%.

Stock exchanges operate in Geneva (founded 1850), Basel (1875), and Zürich (1876). The Zürich exchange is the most important in the country. In terms of market capitalization, the Swiss stock exchanges rank seventh in the world, behind New York, Tokyo, Osaka, London, Frankfurt, and Paris, as of 1997. Overall, turnover, including shares, bonds, and options, amounted to SwFr1.2 trillion in 2002, a drop of 2.3% from the prior year. The open outcry stock exchanges in Zürich, Geneva, and Basel closed in 1994 when a national electronic stock exchange for all securities trading began operations in August. In 2004, a total of 282 companies were listed on the SWX Swiss Exchange, which had a market capitalization of $825.849 billion.


The Swiss people are the most heavily insured in the world, although this reflects social insurance such as health insurance, as well as more commercial types of business. Nevertheless, Swiss insurers now rely on foreign business for two-thirds of their premium income. The insurance sector has been steadily deregulated during the 1990s. One of the last set of controls was scrapped in 1996 when the fixed tariff regime for third-party vehicle insurance was abolished. As of 1999, Swiss insurance companies numbered over 100.

Switzerland controls an estimated one-third of the world's reinsurance, and insurance income represents a major item in the Swiss balance of payments. Insurance investments are represented heavily in the Swiss capital market, and Swiss insurance firms have invested widely in foreign real estate. About half the domestic insurance business is in the hands of the state. The Swiss Reinsurance Co. in Zürich is the largest of its kind in the world. As of 1999, about 10% of all Swiss insurance companies dealt solely with reinsurance. There are several types of compulsory insurance in Switzerland, including workers' compensation, third-party automobile liability, fire, pension, hunters', aircraft, nuclear power station, old age, unemployment, and disability insurance. In 1999, the total income of the Swiss domestic insurance market was 48 million, making it the 12th largest insurance market globally. In 2003, the value of all direct insurance premiums written totaled $40.760 billion, of which life insurance premiums accounted for $24.713 billion. In that same year, Switzerland's top nonlife insurer was Winterthur, which had gross written nonlife premiums of $2.21 billion, while Winterthur Leben was the country's leading life insurer, with gross written life insurance premiums of $6.09 billion.


The Swiss government has been known historically for maintaining a relatively high degree of austerity in comparison to its European neighbors. In 1991, the federal government incurred a budget deficit of over SwFr1.5 billion, the first budget discrepancy in seven years. Cantonal budgets also were in deficit. These deficits continued throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, prompting governments at all levels to take further cost-cutting steps. As an international creditor, debt management policies are not relevant to Switzerland, which participates in the Paris Club debt reschedulings and is an active member of the OECD.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Switzerland's central government took in revenues of approximately $138.1 billion and had expenditures of $143.6 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately -$5.5 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 53.3% of GDP. Total external debt was $856 billion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reported that in 2001, the most recent year for which it had data, central government revenues were SwFr81,727 million and expenditures were SwFr80,498 million. The value of revenues was us$48,428 million and expenditures us$47,700 million, based on a market exchange rate for 2001 of us$1 = SwFr1.6876 as reported by the IMF. Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 18.1%; defense, 6.2%; public order and safety, 0.8%; economic

Revenue and Grants 81,727 100.0%
   Tax revenue 43,200 52.9%
   Social contributions 32,391 39.6%
   Grants 2,307 2.8%
   Other revenue 3,829 4.7%
Expenditures 80,498 100.0%
   General public services 14,566 18.1%
   Defense 4,956 6.2%
   Public order and safety 620 0.8%
   Economic affairs 11,749 14.6%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 781 1.0%
   Health 215 0.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 482 0.6%
   Education 2,650 3.3%
   Social protection 44,479 55.3%
() data not available or not significant.

affairs, 14.6%; housing and community amenities, 1.0%; health, 0.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.6%; education, 3.3%; and social protection, 55.3%.


The Swiss Confederation, the cantons, and the communes all levy taxes on income or profits. Periodic federal, cantonal, and communal taxes also are charged against capital values belonging to corporations and other corporate entities. The cantons all levy wealth taxes based on individual net assets, stamp duties, taxes on entertainment or admissions, and special charges for educational, social, and sanitary services. Most cantons also levy a tax surcharge on members of certain major churches for the support of those religions. Localities may impose taxes on land, rents, and entertainment, as well as a head tax and a dog tax.

Although corporate income taxes are taxed at a flat rate of 8.5%, the effective rate is actually between 8% and 25% when federal and cantonal taxes are taken into account. Generally, capital gains received by a company are taxed as ordinary business income at regular business rates. However, different rules may apply to gains received from real estate or to real estate companies at the cantonal/communal level. Generally, dividends distributed by Swiss companies are taxed as ordinary income, to which a withholding rate of 35% is applied. However, applicable participation exemption rules may lower the federal tax liability for the recipient. Interest income from banks, and publicly offered debentures, bonds and other debt instruments issued by a Swiss borrower are subject to a withholding rate of 35%. However, loans from a foreign parent company to Swiss subsidiaries and commercial loans, generally are exempt.

Federal tax is levied on personal income at rates up to 11.5%. However, cantonal rates can range from 10% to around 30%. Various deductions and personal allowances are granted according to circumstances. Those between the ages of 20 and 50 who do not fulfill their military obligation are liable for an additional tax. Cantonal and communal taxes are generally imposed at progressive rates.

In 1995 Switzerland replaced its old system of taxing turnover with a value-added tax (VAT) similar to those of its European neighbors. As of 2005, the VAT was 7.6% and was levied on all deliveries of goods and services, including investments, consumer goods, animals and plants, consulting and entertainment services, license fees, and the sale of rights. The VAT is also levied on imported goods and services. However, hotel and lodging services are subject to a lower rate of 3.6%, while items such as foodstuffs, medicines, newspapers, farming supplies and agricultural products were subject to a 2.4% rate. Exports were zero-rated. There are also miscellaneous federal taxes, such as stamp duties, payroll and excise taxes.


Switzerland joined EFTA in 1960 and became a full member of the GATT group in 1966. In 1973, Switzerland entered into an industrial free trade agreement with the European Community (now the European Union). Duties on industrial imports from the European Community were eliminated by 1977. Although it generally favors free trade, Switzerland protects domestic agriculture for national defense reasons and its customs tariff, established in 1921, is primarily a revenue-raising instrument. Specific duties, low for raw materials, moderate for semi finished goods, and high for manufactured goods, are levied by weight of import. Import duties average 3.2% on industrial goods. Switzerland gives preferential treatment to imports from developing nations. Other import taxes include a 3% statistical tax, a standard 7.6% VAT, and an environmental tax. Specific luxuries like cigarettes and spirits are subject to an excise tax. Quotas regulate the importation of certain agricultural items such as white wine.


Switzerland is generally open to foreign investment and grants foreign investors national treatment. However, the government restricts investment in vacation real estate, utilities, and other sectors considered essential to national security (such as hydroelectric and nuclear power plants, operation of oil pipelines, operation of airlines and marine navigation, and the transportation of explosive materials). There are no restrictions on repatriation of profits. Federal grants are offered for investments in depressed areas. The cantonal governments offer tax and nontax incentives for new investments or extensions of existing investments on a case-by-case basis.

In 1997, total foreign direct investment (FDI) stock in Switzerland exceeded $56.58 billion (22% of GDP). US companies accounted for 23% of that total. By 1999, FDI stock had risen to over $83 billion (32% of GDP), and the United States share to 26.6%. FDI inflows were $6.6 billion in 1997, climbing to a peak of $16.3 billion in 2000, before falling back to about $10 billion in 2001. In 2003, FDI inflows amounted to $12.2 billion.

Stocks of Swiss FDI abroad totaled $170 billion (62.3% of GDP) in 1997 rising to $205.2 billion (79% of GDP) in 1999. In 1999, the largest holders of Swiss outward FDI were the United States (with $45 billion, 23%); the United Kingdom ($23.7 billion, 11.5%); Germany ($17.4 billion, 8.5%); the Netherlands ($12.5 billion, 6.1%); and France ($10.4 billion, 5%). FDI outflows in 2003 amounted to $10.9 billion.


Private enterprise is the basis of Swiss economic policy. Although government intervention has traditionally been kept to a minimum, the international monetary crises from late 1974 to mid-1975 led to imposition of various interim control measures; in 1982, with inflation rising, a constitutional amendment mandating permanent government price controls was approved by popular referendum. The Swiss National Bank has followed a general policy of limiting monetary growth. To further raise the standard of living, the government also grants subsidies for educational and research purposes, promotes professional training, and encourages exports. Although certain foreign transactions are regulated, there is free currency exchange and a guarantee to repatriate earnings of foreign corporations.

The cause of the remarkable stability of Switzerland's economy lies in the adaptability of its industries; in the soundness of its convertible currency, which is backed by gold to an extent unmatched in any other country; and in the fact that the particular pattern of Swiss democracy, where every law may be submitted to the popular vote, entails taking into account the wishes of all parties whose interests would be affected by a change in legislation.

Switzerland's development assistance program takes the form of technical cooperation, preferential customs treatment for certain third-world products, and a limited number of bilateral aid arrangements.

The question of future European Union (EU) membership remains a point of contention among the Swiss. The French-speaking minority overwhelmingly favors EU membership, while the German-speaking majority strongly opposes it. In a 2000 referendum, Swiss voters approved closer ties to the EU. Some of the key provisions of the deal included agreement to allow EU trucks transit rights through Switzerland, as well as granting Swiss freedom of movement in the EU. Full access to the Swiss market by the original 15 EU member countries was achieved in a June 2004 agreement, ending as a result the "national preference." Switzerland approved another pact, the Schengen-Dublin agreement with the EU, in June 2005, which allows for the free movement of peoples, although fears of cheap labor coming from new EU member nations remained. However, voters approved by a referendum held on 25 September 2005 a measure to extend the provision of free movement of peoples to the 10 predominantly eastern European nations which joined the EU in 2004.

A new ordinance covering the banking sector was enacted in 2002, to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. Switzerland joined the UN in 2002.


There is a social insurance system and mandatory occupational pension system financed by employer and employee contributions as well as governmental subsidies. Old-age pensions are paid at age 65 for men and 63 for women. Disability and survivorship pensions are also available to qualified recipients. Sickness and Maternity benefits were first implemented in 1911. Medical care is available to all persons living in Switzerland, and there is a voluntary insurance plan for all employees to provide cash benefits. Maternity benefits are payable up to 16 weeks. Work injury insurance is compulsory, with contribution rates varying according to risk. Unemployment and disability is also covered. Family allowances are provided by the cantons, but there is a federal program covering agricultural workers. Some cantons provide birth grants.

The law provides for equal pay and prohibits gender discrimination, but there is significant bias against women in the workplace. Women earn less than men, and are less likely to receive training. There are few women in managerial positions, and they are also promoted less than men. Sexual harassment in the workplace continues, although laws and advocacy groups work to eradicate the problem. The Federal Office for Equality Between Women and Men and the Federal Commission on Women are charged with eliminating all types of gender discrimination. Physical and sexual violence against women and domestic abuse persist.

Extremist organizations continue physical and verbal attacks on religious, racial, and ethnic minorities. The government is taking some action to curtail the activities of these groups. Human rights are generally respected in Switzerland.


Health standards and medical care are excellent. The pharmaceuticals industry ranks as one of the major producers of specialized pharmaceutical products. Managed-care systems are widely used, especially with a "gatekeeper" component to control costs. As of 2004, there were an estimated 352 physicians, 834 nurses, 48 dentists, and 62 pharmacists per 1,000 people. The ratio of doctors per population varies by region, with the highest proportions in Basle and Geneva and the lowest in Appenzell. Total health care expenditure was estimated at 10.4% of GDP.

As of 2002, the crude birth rate and overall mortality rate were estimated at, respectively, 9.8 and 8.8 per 1,000 people. About 71% of married women (ages 15 to 49) were using contraception. The fertility rate was 1.5 children per woman surviving her childbearing years in 2000. The infant mortality rate, which had been 70.3 per 1,000 live births in 1924, was 4.39 in 2005. The vaccination rates for DPT and measles were, respectively, 94% and 81%. In 2005, life expectancy was averaged at 80.39 years.

There were about nine cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 people reported in 1999. Cardiovascular disease-related deaths numbered nearly 30,000 in the mid-1990s. Tobacco consumption has dramatically decreased from 3.1 kg (6.8 lbs) per year per adult in 198486 to 2.4 kg (5.3 lbs) in 1995. In 1996, voters in Zurich approved a government plan to supply heroin addicts with free access to their drug.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.40 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 13,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


Although housing standards are comparatively high, there are shortages in certain areas. In the mid-1990s, less than 40,000 new dwellings per year were constructed in communities of 2,000 or more inhabitants, down from 44,228 in 1985. In 2000, there were about 3,115,399 private households and about 1,377,552 residential buildings. About 30% of all residential buildings were designed for two or more households. The total housing stock in 2001 was about 3,604,340 dwellings.


Education at all levels is first and foremost the responsibility of the cantons. Thus, Switzerland has 26 different systems based on differing education laws and varied cultural and linguistic needs. The cantons decide on the types of schools, length of study, teaching materials, and teachers' salaries. Education is compulsory in most cantons for nine years, and in a few for eight. An optional 10th year has been introduced in several cantons. Church schools in some cantons are tax supported. After primary school, students complete the compulsory portion of their education in various types of secondary Grade I schools, which emphasize vocational or academic subjects to varying degrees. Secondary Grade II schools, which are not compulsory, include trade and vocational preparatory schools and gymnasiums, which prepare students for the university and lead to the matura, or higher school-leaving certificate.

Switzerland has a large number of private schools attracting primarily foreign students. These schools, most of them located in the French-speaking cantons, are known for their high-quality education, of either the academic or "finishing school" variety.

In 2001, about 97% of children between the ages of five and six were enrolled in some type of preschool program. Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 99% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 87% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 98.6% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 13:1 in 2000; the ratio for secondary school was about 10:1. In 2003, private schools accounted for about 3.7% of primary school enrollment and 7% of secondary enrollment.

Switzerland has 10 cantonal universities, including four in French-speaking areas and four in German-speaking ones. The universities' expenditures are largely financed by the cantons, with a 53% contribution from the Confederation. Approximately one-third of all higher-level educational funding goes to research and development. The largest universities are those of Zürich, Geneva, and Basel; others include those of Lausanne, Bern, Fribourg, and Neuchâtel. The Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, the Economics College at St. Gallen, and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne are also important. In 2003, it was estimated that about 49% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs; 53% for men and 44% for women. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 99%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 5.8% of GDP, or 15.1% of total government expenditures.


The library of Basel University (3 million volumes) and the Swiss National Library in Bern (3.6 million volumes) are the largest in Switzerland. The University of Geneva has 1.8 million volumes; the University of Lausanne has about 1.7 million; and the University of Fribourg has two million. Switzerland has an extensive public library system with about 2,344 service points holding over 28 million volumes in total. The Library and Archives of the United Nations is located in Geneva, as is the library of the International Labor Organization (over 580,000 items).

The National Museum, a federal institution in Zürich, houses historic objects; other historical museums are located in Basel, Bern, and Geneva. Basel houses both the Museum of Ancient Art and the Basel Museum of Fine Arts, which has a fine collection of 15th- and 16th-century German masterworks, paintings by Dutch artists of the 17th and 18th centuries, and a survey from Corot to Picasso. The Museum of Fine Arts in Bern contains paintings by old masters and impressionists (Klee Foundation). The Zürich Art Museum houses modern Swiss paintings, as well as works by Dutch and Flemish masters of the 17th century. Geneva houses the Museum of the Voltaire Institute, the Museum of the Institute of Henri Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross, the Jean-Jacques Rousseau Museum, and the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, which opened in 1994. The League of Nations (United Nations) Museum is in Geneva. There are arts and crafts museums in most of the larger cities, and Neuchâtel has an ethnographic museum. Many fine examples of Romanesque, Gothic, and Baroque architecture are found in Switzerland.


The postal system and the telephone, telegraph, radio, and television systems are government owned and operated. The telephone system is completely automatic. International communications, air navigation services, and the new electronic media, including data transmission and electronic mail, are the province of Radio Suisse, a public corporation. In 2003, there were an estimated 744 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 843 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

Broadcasting is controlled by the Swiss Broadcasting Corp. (SBC), an autonomous corporation under federal supervision. A number of independent local radio stations have been operating since 1983. Radio programs are broadcast in German, French, Italian, and Romansch. As of 1999, Switzerland had seven AM and 50 FM radio stations and 108 television stations. In 2003, there were an estimated 1,002 radios and 552 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 376.2 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 708.7 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 351 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 2,821 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

A few papers, such as the Neue Zürcher Zeitung and the Tribune de Genève, are widely read even beyond the borders of Switzerland and have excellent international coverage. The Agence Télégraphique Suisse (Schweizerische Depeschenagentur), co-owned by some 40 newspaper publishers, is Switzerland's most important national news agency.

Among the largest dailies in 2005 were Blick (in Zürich, circulation 362,000), Tages-Anzeiger (Zürich, 231,000), and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zürich, 151,000). Tribune de Genève was the best-selling French daily in 2005 with a circulation of about 71,000. Corriere del Ticino is a best-selling Italian paper with a 2005 circulation of about 39,000. The Schweizer Illustrierte (circulation 195,894) is the most popular illustrated weekly, and the Nebelspalter (38,630) is the best-known satirical periodical.

The constitution provides for freedom of speech and a free press, and the government is said to uphold these freedoms in practice.


Both agricultural and consumer cooperatives are numerous. The Swiss Office for Commercial Expansion is an important foreign trade promotion organization. The Swiss Federation of Commerce and Industry also promotes commerce, trade and industry. The Swiss Confederation of Trade Unions serves the interests of workers/employees. The International Labour Organization has a base office in Geneva. There are chambers of commerce in all the major cities. Trade unions and professional associations exist for most occupations.

Geneva serves as home to a variety of international organizations including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Society, the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, The World Health Organization, and the World Scout Foundation. Several United Nation's committee offices are based here as well, the UN Economic Commission for Europe, UN Environment Programme, UN High Commission for Refugees, the UN Institute for Training and Research, and the UN Research Institute for Social Development. Other international organizations with national chapters include Amnesty International, Defence for Children International, Caritas, and Greenpeace.

There are numerous cultural and educational organizations. A few with national interest include the Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Swiss Academy of Sciences. The European Center for Culture is a multinational organization promoting understanding and cooperation between cultures.

Active youth groups within the country include Junior Chamber, YMCA/YWCA, and the Swiss Guide and Scout Movement. There are a large number of sports associations nationwide, including several international organizations such as the International Baseball Federation, the International Basketball Federation, and the International Gymnastic Federation. The International Olympic Committee is based in Lausanne.

Several human rights, social justice, and social action organizations exist, including the Association of International Consultants on Human Rights, the Berne Declaration, Green Cross, The National Council of Women of Switzerland, and the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. The International Alliance Women and the Women's World Summit Foundation both focus on health and equal rights for women. Soroptimist International of Europe is a multinational organization of business-women working toward the causes of peace, justice, health, and equal rights.


Switzerland has long been one of the most famous tourist areas in the world, and Swiss hospitality and the Swiss hotel industry are justly renowned. Scenic attractions are manifold, and in the Swiss Alps and on the shores of the Swiss lakes there are features of interest for the skier, the swimmer, the hiker, the mountain climber, and the high alpinist. There are approximately 50,000 km (31,000 mi) of marked footpaths and 500 ski lifts. The hotels are among the best in the world; Switzerland pioneered in modern hotel management and in specialized training for hotel personnel. Central Switzerland and the Geneva region attract the largest number of foreign tourists. Passports and visas are required of all visitors except citizens of the Americas, Europe, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand who do not need visas for stays of up to 90 days.

In 2003, there were 6,530,108 visitors who arrived in Switzerland, almost 28% of whom were German. Tourism receipts totaled $11.3 billion, and hotel rooms numbered 139,969 with 258,726 beds and an occupancy rate of 38%. Visitors stayed an average of three nights.

In 2005, the US Department of State estimated the daily cost of staying in Geneva at $380; in Zürich, $295; in Basel, $379; and in Montreux at $394.


World-famous Swiss scientists include the physician and alchemist Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus (Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, 1493?1541); the outstanding mathematicians Johann Bernoulli (16671748) and Leonhard Euler (170783); the geologist Louis Agassiz (Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, 180773), who was active in the United States; the physiologist, pathologist, and surgeon Emil Theodor Kocher (18411917), who received the Nobel Prize for medicine in 1909; Charles Édouard Guillaume (18611938) and the German-born Albert Einstein (18791955, a naturalized Swiss citizen), Nobel Prize winners in physics in 1920 and 1921, respectively; and Paul Karrer (b.Russia, 18891971), authority on vitamins, who shared the 1937 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Other Nobel Prize winners in the sciences include Alfred Werner (18661919; chemistry, 1913); Yugoslav-born Leopold Ruzicka (18871976; chemistry, 1939); Yugoslav-born Vladimir Prelog (19061998; chemistry, 1975); Austrian-born Wolfgang Pauli (19001958; physics, 1945); Paul Hermann Müller (18991965), Walter Rudolf Hess (18811973), and Polish-born Tadeus Reichstein (18971996), Nobel laureates for medicine in 1948, 1949, and 1950, respectively; Werner Arber (b.1929; medicine, 1978); Heinrich Rohrer (b.1933; physics, 1986); and K. Alex Müller (b.1927) and German-born J. Georg Bednorz (b.1950), for physics in 1987.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (171278), a Geneva-born philosopher, musician, novelist, and diarist in France, was a great figure of the 18th century whose writings exerted a profound influence on education and political thought. Swiss-born Mme. Germaine de Staël (Anne Louise Germaine Necker, 17661817) was acclaimed the world over as defender of liberty against Napoleon. Other noted Swiss writers include Albrecht von Haller (170877), also an anatomist and physiologist; the novelists and short-story writers Johann Heinrich David Zschokke (17711848) and Jeremias Gotthelf (Albert Bitzius, 17971854), also a clergyman and poet; and the poets and novelists Gottfried Keller (181990), Conrad Ferdinand Meyer (182598), and Carl Spitteler (18451924), the last of whom won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1919. The diaries of the philosopher, poet, and essayist Henri-Frédéric Amiel (182181) are famous as the stirring confessions of a sensitive man's aspirations and failures. Charles Ferdinand Ramuz (18781947) is often regarded as the most powerful Swiss writer since Rousseau. The German-born novelist and poet Hermann Hesse (18771962) was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1946. Other recent and contemporary Swiss writers include Robert Walser (18781956), a highly individualistic author, and the novelists and playwrights Max Rudolf Frisch (191191) and Friedrich Dürrenmatt (1921 90), whose psychological dramas have been performed throughout Europe and the United States.

Ludwig Senfl (14901543) was an outstanding Renaissance composer. The Dodecachordon (1547) of Henricus Glareanus (Heinrich Loris, 14881563) was one of the most important music treatises of the Renaissance period. Swiss-born composers of more recent times include Ernest Bloch (18801959), Othmar Schoeck (18861957), Arthur Honegger (18921955), Frank Martin (18901974), Ernst Lévy (1895-1981), Conrad Beck (1901-89), and Paul Burkhard (191177). Ernest Ansermet (18831969) was a noted conductor. Renowned Swiss painters include Konrad Witz (14001447), Henry Fuseli (Johann Heinrich Füssli, 17411825), Arnold Böcklin (18271901), Ferdinand Hodler (18531918), and Paul Klee (18791940). In sculpture and painting, artist Alberto Giacometti (190166) won world acclaim for his hauntingly elongated figures. Le Corbusier (Charles Édouard Jeanneret, 18871965) was a leading 20th-century architect.

Swiss religious leaders include Ulrich Zwingli (14841531), French-born John Calvin (Jean Chauvin, 150964), and Karl Barth (18861968). Other famous Swiss are Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (17461827), an educational reformer who introduced new teaching methods; Ferdinand de Saussure (18571913), the founder of modern linguistics; Auguste Henri Forel (18481931), psychologist and entomologist; the noted art historians Jakob Burckhardt (181897) and Heinrich Wölffl in (18641945); the psychiatrists Eugen Bleuler (18571939), Carl Gustav Jung (18751961), and Hermann Rorschach (18841922); Jean Piaget (18961980), authority on child psychology; and the philosopher Karl Jaspers (18831969). Swiss winners of the Nobel Prize for peace are Henri Dunant (18281910) in 1901, founder of the Red Cross, and Elie Ducommun (18331906) and Charles Albert Gobat (18431914), both in 1902.


Switzerland has no territories or colonies.


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Diem, Aubrey. Switzerland: Land, People, Economy. Kitchener, Ont.: Media International, 1994.

Hilowitz, Janet Eve (ed.). Switzerland in Perspective. New York: Greenwood Press, 1990.

International Smoking Statistics: A Collection of Historical Data from 30 Economically Developed Countries. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Linder, Wolf. Swiss Democracy: Possible Solutions to Conflict in Multicultural Societies. Houndsmills, U.K.: Macmillan, 1994.

McElrath, Karen (ed.). HIV and AIDS: A Global View. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 2002.

Meier, Heinz K. Switzerland. Santa Barbara, Calif.: Clio Press, 1990.

Sectoral Trends in the Swiss Economy. Zürich: Union Bank of Switzerland, Dept. of Economic Research. 1995.

Steinberg, Jonathan. Why Switzerland? 2nd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Switzerland: An Inside View: Politics, Economy, Culture, Society, Nature. Zürich: Der Alltag/Scalo Verlag, 1992.

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Swiss Confederation

Major Cities:
Bern, Geneva, Zurich, Basel, Lausanne, Winterthur

Other Cities:
Aarau, Arosa, Biel, Chur, Fribourg, Gstaad, Locarno, Lucerne, Lugano, Montreux, Neuchâtel, Saint Gall, Schaffhausen, St. Moritz, Thun, Zug


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report dated December 1996. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


SWITZERLAND is all the travel brochures say it is and more. The country's natural beauty, the courtesy of its people, and the stability of the Swiss way of life make living here interesting and relaxing.

Rugged mountains dotted with ski resorts, lakes set in rolling farmlands, and arcaded towns crisscrossed by narrow cobblestone streets are some of the sights that you will be pleased to discover. Swiss cities, while retaining the charm of their age, offer a wide range of modern facilities and cultural opportunities. The Swiss people are proud of their national identity, yet they represent a stimulating variety of cultural and linguistic backgrounds. The nation itself, while traditionally neutral, is active on the international scene.

If you are interested in getting to know Switzerland and the rest of Europe, you will find ample opportunity. A visit here is a pleasant and rewarding experience.



Bern is a charming city built around a bend in the Aare River. Its "Old Europe" atmosphere is evident in arcaded walks along cobblestone streets, towering cathedrals, fountains, clock towers, and bustling open markets. Yet at the same time Bern offers modern shopping facilities and ever-expanding suburbs with new apartment buildings.

The city lies in west-central Switzerland, with the Alps to the south and the Jura Mountains to the northwest. Bern has a population of about 123,000 (December 2000 estimate) and is the seat of the executive and legislative branches of the Swiss Government. There are approximately 30,000 Americans living in Switzerland, mostly concentrated in the major cities of Zurich, Geneva, and Basel.


Shopping facilities are very good, although much more expensive than in the U.S. Markets and specialty shops, such as bakeries, milk/cheese shops, grocery stores, and butcher shops are entirely satisfactory. Several supermarkets exist, and a shopping center (mall) can be reached in about 15 minutes by car from Bern. However, shopping hours are not as convenient as in the U.S., with stores closing at 6 or 6:30 pm except for one weekday evening when the stores in downtown Bern are open until 9 pm. On Saturdays shops stay open until 1 or 4 pm depending on each individual store or town.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, chocolates, dairy products, breads and pastries, dried soups and sauces, and jams and preserves are excellent. Butter and meat are of good quality, although some meat cuts differ from those in the U.S. Many varieties of canned goods are sold locally. Frozen foods are available in an increasingly wide selection. In general, Swiss prices are about 60% higher than in the U.S. Some foods are only available in the few stores that feature imports, for example, maple and other flavorings, Knox gelatin, baking soda, molasses, and syrup. Good baby food products are available.


Bring clothes suitable for a temperate U.S. climate. It is advisable to bring complete winter clothing, good foot gear for hiking, and good raingear for changeable weather.

For social occasions, Swiss dress informally, though still conservatively. Younger Swiss are much more casual than older Swiss. Women's styles can range from jeans, slacks, and pant suits to dresses; while men range from jeans and sweaters to jackets.

Good-quality men's, women's, and children's clothing can be purchased in Switzerland, but prices are much higher than in the U.S. Men's tailoring is excellent but dressmakers are hard to find. Shoes are of excellent quality; however, individuals with narrow or extra-wide feet should bring a good supply because these widths are extremely hard to find. Made-to-measure shoes are available.

Both English-speaking schools require smaller children to wear slippers indoors and white-soled gym shoes in gym. The International School of Berne (ISB) requires black gym shorts and red shirts.

Supplies and Services

The usual consumer goods, toiletries, cosmetics, and household supplies are sold in Switzerland but prices are much higher than in the U.S. One should bring highly specialized drugs, as it is sometimes difficult to find the exact equivalent.

Community services are good. Laundry, dry cleaning, shoe repair, equipment repair, and beauty and barber services are all available and good, but the cost for these services is much higher than in the U.S.

Religious Activities

Bern has many Protestant denominations, the dominant one being Reformed Church. Other groups include a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a Christian Science church, a Seventh-Day Adventist church, and others. The city also has several Roman Catholic churches, a Jewish synagogue, an Islamic center, and a Russian Orthodox church. Most services are conducted in German. One of the Catholic churches, however, has one Sunday Mass in English. In addition, a small Anglican church near the U.S. Embassy serves as the parish church for the U.S., British, and Canadian Protestant communities. All of its services are in English.


Most American children attend either the International School of Berne (ISB) or The British School of Bern. The British School goes from preschool to grade 6 and the ISB from preschool through grade 12.

English-speaking teachers staff ISB and the British School. Both schools are modern with adequately sized rooms, a library, and an outside play area. ISB also has a gym, computer lab, science lab, and an arts center. Both schools provide bus services at parental cost to many areas of Bern. Letter system grades, teacher comments, and parent conferences are used at both schools, and standards of achievement compare favorably with those in the U.S. The British School uses a trimester system, with 2-week holidays at Christmas and Easter, a 1-week fall vacation, and the traditional Swiss 1-week "ski holiday" in February. Summer vacation is from the last week of June to the last week of August. The ISB has a quarterly calendar, and its holidays are about the same as those of the British School. But holiday calendars are not synchronized, so that students at one school may be on holiday when the other school is in session.

The ISB is a nonprofit, coeducational private school run by a Board of Directors of up to nine persons elected by the Parents Association. It is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the European Council of Independent Schools and successfully completed its 10-year re-accreditation in l994. Its 180 to 210 students come from the diplomatic corps and multinational business and industry, with over 30 nations represented.

The curriculum is international in nature. At the high school level, students may pursue the International Baccalaureate program. This is broader and deeper than most U.S. high school curricula. Instruction is in English, but French and German are offered as foreign languages in grades 1 to 12. English as a Second Language instruction is available for students whose mother tongue is not English. The school has a comprehensive special education program for learning disabled students and for highly gifted students. It is an optimal Match school working very closely with the Center for Talented Youth at Johns Hopkins University.

The school's testing program includes the International Baccalaureate, the College Board SAT and Achievement Tests and standardized Educational Records Bureau testing. The school is supported by a grant from the Office of Overseas Schools of the Department of State. More specific information may be obtained from that office.

Founded in 1988, the British School is an independent, nonprofit day school located in Muri, a suburb of Bern. The school provides a modern British curriculum. The teaching allows each child to develop to his/her particular need through both same-age and cross-age groupings. Present enrollment is approximately 45 students in pre-kindergarten through grade 6. American parents with children at the school have, on the whole, been very satisfied with their involvement and the care and attention given to their students.

The English Speaking Play-group takes children from 3 to 5 years old who speak English or, in limited numbers, who wish to learn English. Activities include singing, art, music and movement, stories, and poems as well as supervised games and play. The groups have a maximum of 12 children. There is also an English Montessori School in Bern for children 3 to 6 years old. The L'École Française de Berne also provides a preschool for ages 2-1/2 to 5 years old.

Occasionally it is possible to enroll in a Swiss neighborhood nursery school; classes are conducted in Swiss German.

Special Educational Opportunities

The University in Bern, one of the largest in Switzerland, offers courses in seven areas of study to undergraduate and graduate students. English literature classes are given in English, all others in German. Specific information on this and other universities may be obtained from each institution or from the Central Office of the Swiss Universities, Sonneggstrasse 26, 8006 Zurich.

The American College of Switzerland at Leysin (a campus of Schiller International University), is about 1-1/2 hours away from Bern by car. It is a fully accredited (by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools) 4-year college in Switzerland. It offers five programs leading to a B.A., B.S., or M.B.A. degree. More information may be obtained from the Office of Admission, 1854 Leysin, Switzerland.

The Zurich Campus of City University of Bellevue, Washington, is 1 to 1 1/2 hours from Bern by car, and slightly closer by train. It is an accredited English-speaking college and offers both undergraduate and master's programs in business administration. More information can be obtained from the college at the Educational Programs of City University, AG, Raemi Str. 71, 8006 Zurich.

Webster University of St. Louis in Geneva, 1-3/4 hours from Bern by car, offers both undergraduate and master's of arts programs. Further information can be obtained from the college at the Center for International Reform John Knox, 27 Chemin des Crets de Pregny, 1218 Grand-Saconnex/Geneva.

Franklin College in Lugano, 5 hours from Bern, is an accredited English-speaking college offering A.A., B.A., and M.B.A. degrees. More information can be obtained from the college, 6902 Lugano, Switzerland.

There are also several campuses of the European University specializing in a B.A. or M.A. in business with instruction in English. Information can be obtained at Route de Fontanivent CH-1817, Fontanivent-Montreux, Switzerland.

There are also several noted hotel schools, including one run by Schiller University. For information, write Hotel Europe, CH-6390, Ergelverg, Switzerland.

Night classes in Bern are offered in a wide variety of subjects including business skills, hobbies and crafts, sports, home economics, and the arts. All classes are in German. Several language schools have group lessons taught in German, but private lessons with English-speaking instructors are available. The International School of Bern offers beginning and intermediate courses in German and French; and the English-speaking social clubs have ongoing conversational classes in both languages. Music lessons are offered at the Bern Conservatory, as well as by private teachers.


Many opportunities are available for individual sports. Tennis, hot-air ballooning, windsurfing, sailing, rafting, hang gliding, golf, riding, skiing, skating, boating, fishing, hunting, swimming, climbing, and hiking can all be enjoyed in or near Bern. Lessons are given in many of these sports. Although no public tennis courts exist, there are several private clubs where lessons are offered by licensed instructors, some of whom are English speaking. Several riding stables in and around Bern offer indoor instruction to groups and individuals. Sailing lessons are given on nearby Lake Thun, and mountaineering is taught by the Swiss Alpine Club. The lessons are nearly always in German and/or French.

Skiing is Switzerland's major sport. There are many ski areas near Bern, and all have English-speaking ski instructors. Both group and private lessons are cheaper than in the U.S.

The nearest golf club is a 25-minute drive from Bern. A number of excellent golf courses can be found throughout Switzerland.

Hunting is an expensive sport, and a difficult annual examination must be passed to obtain a license. The Swiss are avid shooters, and rifle and pistol ranges are widespread. Stream fishing for trout, graylings, and pike is popular and fishing equipment is available, but a license must be obtained and strict rules adhered to.

A public outdoor swimming pool near the U.S. Embassy is converted into an ice-skating rink during winter. Occasional ice hockey matches are held there. Other public swimming pools are located throughout Bern and the surroundings.

The most popular spectator sports are ice hockey, soccer, track and field events, and ski competitions. Horse shows and bicycle and motorcycle races and rallies also take place in or near Bern.

Sports equipment is generally more expensive than in the U.S. Good used equipment is also available at the beginning of each ski season.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

Bern is centrally located for travel to all parts of Switzerland by car or train. The city is within a few hours' driving distance of France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Magnificent scenery and charming restaurants and hotels add to the local color.

Countless opportunities exist for camping and hiking near Bern and all over Switzerland. The city is surrounded by wooded areas that are perfect for picnics. Bern itself boasts a botanical garden, a rose garden overlooking the old town, an outdoor zoo with play areas for children, the famous bear pits, and a local children's amusement park.

Bern has several museums and a number of small art galleries, plus occasional exhibitions and fairs. Outstanding museums are also found in other Swiss cities.

No restrictions are placed on photography except where posted, such as in military areas.


The variety of entertainment in Bern is impressive though little cosmopolitan night life exists.

About 20 film theaters show American, French, German, and Italian movies. Many American movies are shown in Bern in English (subtitles are in German and French). The City Theater offers operas, plays, ballets, and operettas, while smaller theaters offer plays and cabarets. Guest performances by Swiss and international classical and jazz musicians are common. An excellent international jazz festival takes place every spring. Lectures, travelogues, etc., are given frequently. Most of the performances are presented in German, although some nightclub acts are in French. Bern has four nightclubs, several bars, and many restaurants featuring Swiss specialties. In general, Swiss law prohibits young children from attending film theaters at night.

The principal local festivities are Swiss National Day (August 1), the Onion Market, held on the last Monday in November, and Sammi Klaus Day (December 5). The Onion Market features hundreds of market stalls selling onions and handicrafts. The Fasnacht (Carnival) celebration is held in late winter at the beginning of the Lenten season.

Social Activities

English speaking clubs in Bern are The American Women's Club, The International Club of Bern, and The Swiss-American Society. The International Club of Bern includes men and women from the international community. It sponsors a yearly ball, dinners, lectures, and some food preparation classes. Clubs often have programs specifically for children as well as events for families. The International Teens of Bern, a club for teens 14 years and older, has been active in recent years. Boy Scout and Cub Scout units are also available, but often depend on family member involvement.


Geneva (Genève in French, Genf in German) is a part, but a somewhat atypical one, of Switzerland. With its metropolitan population of 409,000 (175,000 in the city proper) and its teeming international organizations, it is the center of more intergovernmental activity per capita than any other city in the world. The diplomatic community (members of national missions and inter-governmental organizations and their families) exceeds 22,000; international governmental and nongovernmental agencies with headquarters or major offices in Geneva total 100; and approximately the same number of nations maintain permanent missions in the city.

The main focus of international activity is the Palais des Nationsonce the home of the League of Nations and now the seat of the United Nations' European Office. The close to 5,000 annual meetings which take place at the Palais make it the world's busiest international conference center.

Geneva is often a front-page dateline during a summit conference or a high-level political meeting. But even when Geneva diplomacy is not making headlines, it is still working steadily to improve international relations.

Major activities in Geneva include the development of programs for combating disease; for expanding trade; for helping refugees and migrants seeking lives free of tyranny, strife, and hunger; for training people in industry and agriculture; and for utilizing weather and communications satellites to the fullest. Representatives of the U.S. and the Soviet Union meet in Geneva for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Arms control and disarmament is another major part of continuing Geneva diplomacy; the Conference of the Committee on Disarmament (CCD)the world's main multilateral disarmament negotiating forumholds annual sessions in Geneva and considers treaties on all matters of weaponry.

The following are among the major intergovernmental organizations headquartered here: International Labor Organization (ILO); World Health Organization (WHO); International Telecommunications Union (ITU); World Meteorological Organization (WMO); World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO); U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); U.N. Economic Commission for Europe (ECE); General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT); U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR); and Intergovernmental Committee for Migration (ICM).

The major nongovernmental organizations in Geneva include: International Committee of the Red Cross and the League of Red Cross Societies; World Council of Churches; World Jewish Congress; International Commission of Jurists; World Scout Bureau; European Broadcasting Union; Pan-African Institute for Development; and International Organization for Standardization.

United States Mission

The U.S. Permanent Mission to International Organizations is headed by a permanent representative with the rank of ambassador. U.S. delegations are staffed by mission officers, by delegates from the Department of State and other U.S. Government departments and agencies, and from the private sector.

The principal objectives of the U.S. Mission include promoting U.S. policies in international organizations and developing contacts with other foreign missions; serving as a channel of communication between international organizations and U.S. Government departments and agencies with similar interests; providing substantive and administrative support to U.S. delegations; reporting Geneva developments and making policy recommendations to the U.S. Government; assisting the media in staying informed on U.S. policies.

The City

Geneva is located on the Rhone (Rhône) River where it emerges from Lake Geneva (Lac Léman) in the extreme southwest corner of Switzerland. The Canton of Geneva is surrounded on three sides by France, and is connected to the rest of Switzerland by a narrow strip of land that runs along the west side of the lake. Lying on gently rolling hills along both banks of the Rhone at an altitude of 1,200 feet, Geneva is dominated on the northwest by the Jura Mountains and on the south by the Salève, a long, low mountain that forms a distinctive landmark. Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Europe, is visible on clear days. The other ranges of the Alpsthe Haute Savoie in France and the Swiss Alps on the Valaisrise steeply at the opposite end of Lake Geneva, 50 miles away.

Geneva's temperate climate is variable because of the city's location. The weather is generally pleasant from April to December. Winters are often damp with overcast skies, but are never severe. Although nearby mountains are snow-covered throughout the winter, Geneva itself gets little snow. Temperatures rarely drop below freezing during the day. Summers are generally mild and pleasant with a few hot spells. Frequent rains fall in spring and early summer; temperatures are cool and crisp in both spring and autumn. The normal seasonal weather is affected from time to time by two winds characteristic of many parts of Switzerland: the bise, a north wind that blows from Lake Geneva and brings a chilling cold in winter and clear skies and pleasant temperatures in summer; and the föhn, a south wind that is often oppressively warm and humid.

The bridge to understanding the real spirit of Geneva is the realization that it is an international city. It is not only a geographical crossroads of Europe, but also a crossroads of international minds. Much of its population is comprised of diplomats and international civil servants who come to Geneva for a few years' assignment and frequently end up staying forever. It is a peaceful city and its name is symbolic of peace.

Geneva, more than any other city of its size, is polyglot. French is the language of everyday dealings, but German, Italian, Spanish, English, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, and Arabic are also spoken commonly in its streets. Probably every language can be heard sooner or later in the corridors of the Palais.

Geneva's History

Historically, Geneva is of great interest. Founded in the first century B.C. by a Celtic tribe, it became an outpost of the Roman Empire and an important episcopal see. After the empire collapsed, Geneva served as a pawn in dynastic and church politics of the feudal period until the 14th century, when it achieved independence. Its first official links with the Swiss Confederation were in the form of alliances in the 16th century with Fribourg and Bern, undertaken to protect the city's independence. Shortly thereafter, the Protestant Reformation spread to Geneva and, after the arrival of John Calvin in 1536, the city was governed by a Calvinist theocracy. It became the chief center of Reformation doctrine on the continent and a haven for Protestant refugees from all over Europe. The Reformation and the period of Calvinist rule have had deep and lasting effects on the city's political, cultural, and economic life. French Protestant refugees, incidentally, introduced watchmaking into Geneva, thus establishing Switzerland's highly important export industry.

Another significant phase in Geneva's history was its association with the French liberal movement in the 18th century. Before the French Revolution, Rousseau and Voltaire lived in and near Geneva for long periods. Through their contacts and writings, they propagated liberal ideas that had profound repercussions throughout the Western world and on Geneva's own political development. In 1814, the city joined the Swiss Confederation, thus completing the territorial area of present-day Switzerland. During the past century, Geneva has progressed into a prosperous and flourishing center of commerce, tourism, and international politics.

Geneva's general appearance belies its long and distinguished history. While the Old City, a section on the left bank of the Rhone, is composed largely of buildings dating from the 16th to the 18th centuries, Geneva is mostly a modern city, reflecting growth in population and expansion in commerce and other affairs of the past century. It seems smaller than it is. From the center of town one can walk to most of its important landmarks within 10 minutes.

From the Old City and its maze of picturesque, narrow streets crowded with antique shops, visitors can stroll along a lakeside promenade for a view of Mont Blanc or the Jet d'Eau, an incredible "fountain" created in 1886 by an engineer in charge of Geneva's water supply. The water rushes from the base of the fountain at a speed of 125 miles per hour, with an output of 110 gallons per second.

More than 100,000 American tourists and other temporary visitors pass through the city annually. In most years, at least 1,000 American delegates participate in conferences held in Geneva. About 200 American business firms are represented in Geneva; many use the city as a center for their European and worldwide operations.


Geneva has numerous private kindergartens with instruction in either English or French. Children of elementary and high school age can attend French-language public and denominational schools that compare with the best American institutions. Private international schools most frequently used by U.S. Government personnel include: the International School (with branches on both the Left and Right Bank); College du Léman (Right Bank) in nearby Versoix; and the Lycée des Nations (Right Bank). Students include children of international civil servants, international business staffs, and Genevans. The school year follows the U.S. pattern, beginning in September and ending in June.

These schools offer music lessons at extra cost and have active athletic programs, including ski workshops and trips. Their libraries and laboratory facilities are adequate.

Both undergraduate and master of arts programs are taught in English at Webster College. Webster also offers limited, but varied, courses in history, economics, and political science. Further information can be obtained from the Center for International Reform John Knox, at 27, Chemin des Crets de Pregny, 1218 Grand-Saconnex/Genève.

Superior higher-education facilities for those fluent in French are available at the University of Geneva and the Institute des Hautes Études Internationales. Entering students must have a college degree and proficiency in French. Fluency is tested before final registration. A seminar in French language, history, and literature is offered to foreign students who attend as auditors, or who can obtain certificates if they have a working knowledge of French. About 150 American students are enrolled at the university, and 40 attend the institute each academic year.

Good private French classes are available. Two of the better known courses are Migros and Cours Commerciaux de Genève. The U.N. offers courses in French and in many other languages.


Geneva is ideally located for convenient travel to other important cities and places of interest in Switzerland and its neighboring countries. Bern, the capital, is 98 miles away. Zurich, Switzerland's largest city, is 168 miles away. Most places in Switzerland are within a few hours' travel by train, or a day's drive by car. One-day boat excursions to Lausanne, Montreux, and other Swiss cities along Lac Léman, or one-day auto trips to Évian, Annecy, and Chamonix in France are popular. Almost every important city in Western Europe is within a two-day drive.

The Service des Loisirs sponsors 16 leisure centers in Geneva. These offer activities from alpinism (mountain climbing) and spelunking (cave exploring) to cooking, languages, and sports. Private centers also are engaged in activities that range from guitar lessons to the study of tropical fish.

Geneva boasts beautiful parks which often contain play equipment for children. Among the many children's amusements are excellent circuses, a delightful puppet theater, and frequent small fairs with amusement rides. Organized activities for children include special skiing trips, class trips to other countries, ice skating, scouting (both American and Swiss), ballet and modern dance, musical instruction, judo, soccer, and Little League and Pony League baseball. Summer day camps and athletic clubs are also available.

Spectator sports include ice hockey, soccer, boxing, squash, basketball, bicycle racing, horse racing, ski competition, rugby, and sailing.

Geneva is a skier's paradise, with good slopes just 40 minutes away. Cross-country skiing is popular and can be enjoyed in the city's immediate environs. Other recreational opportunities include boating, tennis, squash, hiking, swimming, mountain climbing, fishing, cycling, horseback riding, bowling, ice skating, and basketball. Expensive public golf courses are located in Divonne and Évian in France, and Geneva has a private club. Several private tennis clubs are available, but obtaining membership may be difficult.

Of the excellent swimming pools around the city, two are open year round. The U.N. health club has a small, private beach on Lac Léman, where guests are often welcome. However, the lake is polluted in some places and is cold even for summer swimming.


Most entertainment available in the U.S. also is available in Geneva. The city has many movie theaters, and American and British films often are shown in their original versions. Children under 16 can attend only specially designated films.

Local stage productions are in French, except for plays presented by the Geneva English Drama Society and the Players Theatre (international). Good entertainment is offered at the Grand Theatre, but tickets are sometimes difficult to obtain, as they are sold by subscription. Other excellent programs include concerts, symphonies, soloists in recital, opera, ballet, and jazz. For the art lover, fine exhibitions are shown at the many small galleries throughout the city. Geneva has good archives, including the Museum of Art and History, and museums with natural history and ethnographic collections.

Fine restaurants abound. Most serve French or international cuisine; others feature native Swiss cooking or foreign specialties. Restaurant prices vary widely, but generally are high. Nearby France has many fine dining establishments in all price ranges. There are a number of expensive nightclubs in Geneva, mainly for after-dinner entertainment.

Most collections in Geneva's many libraries are in French. English books are available in city libraries, the library at the Palais des Nations, and at the American Library in the American Community House. The latter has a large current collection of books in English, a small basic reference room, and a fine collection of children's material. Books in English are expensive here. English-language paperbacks are available at most book shops and large department stores.

Geneva's annual Escalade is held over a weekend in mid-December. It commemorates the Duke of Savoy's ill-fated attempt to scale the walls of Geneva on the night of December 11, 1602. The city celebrates the Duke's failure with parades, torch-light marches, country markets, folk music, and brigades on horseback in period costume.

Americans are eligible for membership in several clubs, notably the Geneva English Speaking Club, the American Women's Club, and the American International Club of Geneva. The U.N. Women's Guild is another club that meets and works with women of all nationalities. Teenagers find less organized social life in Geneva for their age group than is often found elsewhere. Age limits on films are strictly enforced.

Newcomers to the city will benefit from the informative Guide to the English Speaking Community in Geneva. It can be obtained by sending a stamped, self-addressed envelope to Philippe Reverdin, Boulevard des Promenades 21, 1227 Carouge, Geneva. Also, the American Women's Club offers a course called Geneva for Beginners.

Geneva affords many opportunities to meet other nationals, but meeting the Swiss is more difficult. Joining a special interest group is a good way of making acquaintances, although there does not seem to be a unifying aspect to life in Geneva. Varying international organizations, the natural reticence of the Swiss, and the constant flow of visitors make any strong sense of community spirit elusive.


Zurich (in German, Zürich), is located at the north end of Lake Zurich, and is surrounded by verdant hills, with residential areas extending along the lake on either side. To the south, the snow-capped Glarus Alps can be seen on clear days. The city is situated in the Swiss central plateau which stretches from the Alps to the German border.

Zurich, with a metropolitan population of 1.2 million, is Switzerland's largest city. It is the center of finance, commerce, and industry in the German-speaking section of Switzerland, and also the hub of the country's printing and publishing industry. The population of the city proper is 338,000.

The old part of town reflects a long historical past. Occupied as early as the Neolithic period, Zurich became a free imperial city in 1219, and joined the Swiss Federation in 1351. The city was a center of the Swiss Reformation, and the residence of Ulrich (Huldreich) Zwingli, the 16th-century religious reformer. A huge bronze statue of Zwingli is erected below the Grossmünster cathedral near the center of the city. The great Irish novelist, James Joyce (1882-1941), who wrote a major part of Ulysses in Zurich, is buried here.

Zurich is the site of the famous Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (founded in 1860), and of the country's largest university (founded in 1833). There are also several excellent museums.

About 7,500 Americans reside in Zurich's U.S. consular district, which covers an area with a total population of 3.3 million.


Zurich has three private, nonprofit schools which are attended by English-speaking children. The Inter-Community School, based on British and American systems, but geared toward an international enrollment, has been in operation since 1960. Its new and modern facilities were opened in 1972 at Strubenacher 3, 8126 Zumikon (a Zurich suburb), and include a fine library and an auditorium/gymnasium, in addition to its 38 classrooms and science laboratories.

Inter-Community School's strong academic program is enhanced by extracurricular activities and special provisions for those with learning disabilities. The study of German is required. The current enrollment is about 500. There are no boarding facilities.

American International School of Zurich, a coeducational, secondary day school, provides university preparation for students from the international community. It is located in the suburb of Kilchberg, and is easily reached by car or public transportation. The school building is a large converted villa, surrounded by open land overlooking the lake, and with a view of the Alps. The enrollment of 190 is predominantly American. Specific information is available by writing to the director at Nidelbadstrasse 49, 8802 Kilchberg, Switzerland.

The International Primary School, also in Kilchberg, is a small school with classes from nursery level through grade seven. The student body numbers 150. German is a required subject at all levels. The school's address is: Seestrasse 169, 8802 Kilchberg ZH, Switzerland.

Recreation and Entertainment

Boating and sailing are available on Lake Zurich, and golf and other sports can be played in various spots throughout the metropolitan area. The city is centrally located for travel and within weekend driving distance of France, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Magnificent scenery and charming hotels add to the color.

Zurich has an opera company, a symphony orchestra, a number of chamber groups, and a famous German theater, the Schauspielhaus. Local groups occasionally produce plays in English, and first-run movies, often in English, are shown. The numerous cabarets in the city and near the Quai Bridge are popular with those who have some understanding of the German language.

Zurich has an abundance of hotels and restaurants, from deluxe to quite inexpensive. There also are nightclubs and jazz spots, attracting both local clientele and tourists. One of the city's interesting festivals is the Sechseläuten, a spring event which features a parade by members of the various professional guilds in traditional dress.

Shopping facilities are varied and of the highest quality. The city's most elegant area of shops is concentrated in the area around the Bahnhofstrasse, which spreads south from the railway station (Hauptbahnhof). A tourist bureau is located in the rail terminal.


Basel (in French, Bâle) is situated in northwest Switzerland astride the Rhine. It is a charming blend of old and new, and a city with a special atmosphere of friendliness that is rarely found to such a degree anywhere else in the country.

The Rhine splits the two sections of the cityGreater Basel on the left bank, which is the commercial and academic section, and Lesser Basel on the right, the industrial area. Chemicals, silk making, and publishing are the major industries in this German-speaking, Protestant city of 166,000 (metropolitan area, 428,000). An older version of the city's name, still seen occasionally, is Basle.

Founded by the Romans as Basilia, Basel became a free imperial city in the 11th century. It was the site of the celebrated (Roman Catholic) Council of Basel (1431-49), which fell into heresy. The city joined the Swiss Confederation in 1501, and accepted the Reformation two decades later. Basel is one of Europe's oldest intellectual centers; its university was founded in 1459. Desiderius Erasmus, the Dutch philosopher, is numbered among its famous scholars, and he is buried in the city's 11th-century Münster (cathedral).

Among Basel's museums is one of the finest in Europe, the Kunstmuseum, which houses the works of distinguished artists such as Hans Holbein, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and others. One of its galleries has a notable collection of modern works. Basel has a magnificent zoosome 4,000 animals and 600 different species live in a beautiful park in the center of the city.

Basel is a tourist center also, with fine hotels and restaurants, good theater and music, excellent shopping (watches, in particular), and opportunities for travel in the surrounding countryside, which is replete with woodlands, orchards, resorts, and quaint villages. River-boat excursions are popular during summer.

Switzerland enjoys a fine reputation in the field of education, and many excellent international schools are in operation in the various cantons. In Basel, the International School on the Schulstrasse provides an Anglo-American education for children from nursery level through the ninth grade. Languages are stressed from an early age, and German is a required subject for all students.


Lausanne, on the northern shore of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva), has been the capital of Vaud Canton since 1803. Rising on steep hills from the lakeshore, it is a noted resort and the business center of western Switzerland. Precision instruments and metalworking, and the production of beer and fine chocolate are among the local industries.

Though it bills itself as "Switzerland's city of the future," Lausanne is an old city. Originally a Celtic settlement called Lausonium, the area has been inhabited since at least the fourth century. Modern growth actually began in 1906, when the Simplon Tunnel opened, putting Lausanne on the critical Paris-to-Milan route. The resident population is about 115,000, a number swelled during the long tourist season.

Lausanne has a beautiful, restored Gothic cathedral, the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame. It was consecrated by Pope Gregory X in 1275. The Swiss regard the cathedral's rose window as a national treasure. A late-17th-century city hall and castle are also noteworthy. Lausanne is the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), and site of the Federal Palace of Justice.

At the village of Ouchy, Lausanne's port, elegant old hotels and homes overlook the lake, where boat excursions are offered throughout the summer months. Nearby Montreux is the home of a renowned international jazz festival. Several prominent Europeans have made this region their home; Rousseau, Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, and Edward Gibbon are a few. Ouchy was the temporary residence of Lord Byron and Shelley in 1816.

Lausanne's tourist office is located at 60 avenue d'Ouchy, two blocks from Lake Geneva.


Brillantmont International School, a coeducational school (boarding, for girls) for grades nine through 12, was established in 1882. It offers American, British, and International Baccalaureate certification, and its U.S. accreditation is by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

Brillantmont's total enrollment of 160 is one-quarter American; four members of the teaching staff of 32 also are American. Although English is the primary language of instruction, French, Spanish, German, and Italian are also taught. Special programs include English as a second language and instruction for those students who have dyslexia. There are a variety of extracurricular activities and sports offered.

Brillantmont is located five minutes from the center of Lausanne on a four-acre campus that features 14 buildings, science and language laboratories, and double or triple boarding rooms. Brillantmont's address is: Avenue Secretan 16, 1005 Lausanne, Switzerland.

Institut Chateau Mont-Choisi, founded in 1885, is a girls' boarding school for grades eight through 12. The school uses a U.S. curriculum with classes in English and French, and offers German, Spanish, and Italian as foreign languages. Extracurricular activities include gymnastics, dance, and sports such as riding and swimming.

Institut Chateau's current enrollment in the American section is 41; 10 are American. The teaching staff consists of 20 full-time and 10 part-time instructors, four of whom are American. All students are boarders and participate in a planned, seven-day program.

Institut Chateau is located less than two miles from the center of Lausanne in a suburban area. The three-acre campus includes six buildings, 16 classrooms, science laboratory, tennis court, swimming pool, and a 2,000-volume library. The school's address is: Boulevard de la Forêt/Chemin des Ramiers 16, 1009 Pully/Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Commonwealth-American School was founded in 1962 and offers instruction for pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Enrollment numbers 180; 32 are American. The school is located in a suburb of Lausanne and the facilities include two buildings, 13 classrooms, and science and computer labs. The library holds 6,500 volumes. For more information contact the director at 73 Avenue C.F. Ramuz, 1009 Pully, Switzerland.

Lausanne rivals Geneva as the intellectual and cultural center of French Switzerland. Its university, founded in 1891, originated as a theological academy in 1537.

It is possible to enroll in university classes in Lausanne if French fluency has been accomplished; only English literature classes are conducted in English.


Winterthur is an important cultural and industrial center, about 10 miles northeast of Zurich. Switzerland's main technological school, Technikum, is located here, as are a renowned art gallery (Reinhart Gallery) and symphony orchestra. Winterthur is also home to a music festival. The city dates to the late 10th century, when it was founded by the counts of Kyburg. It passed to the Hapsburgs in 1264, became an imperial city in 1415, reverted to the Hapsburgs in 1442, and became part of Zurich in 1467.

Winterthur is a major railroad junction and base for the leading Sultzer Brothers engineering company. Diesel engines, locomotives, cotton textiles, and clothes are manufactured here. Noteworthy buildings in the city include the Town Church of St. Laurenz (1264-1515), the town hall (1781-83), and the relatively modern Assembly Hall (1865-69). Winterthur's estimated population is about 88,000. It is surrounded by garden suburbs.


The manufacturing city of Aarau lies on the Aarau River, 23 miles west of Zurich. With about 16,000 residents, this is the capital of Aargau Canton, and a major bell production center. Other manufactured goods include textiles and scientific instruments. Aarau dates to the 11th century. It recognizes its heritage with the medieval castle, a fine library containing much on the nation's history, and several museums. Aarau has been part of the Swiss Confederation since 1805.

The small village of AROSA lies deep in the eastern Alps, 75 miles southwest of Zurich. The spectacular mountain scenery provides the setting and the livelihood for its people, as this is a main tourist destination and health resort. Known for its over 40 wanderwegs, or walking paths, Arosa is also popular in winter for skiing. The lower lake, with public swimming, the main street's shopping area, and the outskirts (curiously called Inner Arosa) with their peaceful meadows, are all considered picturesque. The village is located at the end of roads and railways. It so prides itself in its quiet atmosphere that driving has been banned during the night. Nearby Hornli Mountain lures climbers, as do other smaller peaks in this mile-high region. Area hotels provide somewhat costly accommodations; more popular are chalet, room, and apartment rentals. Arosa's population is about 2,400.

BIEL (in French, Bienne), 17 miles northwest of Bern on Lake Biel, is Switzerland's only officially bilingual city. The majority of its 49,000 people speak German, while one-third use French; Biel is located on the country's language border. It has been inhabited since the Roman era, with a charter from 1275. Its allegiance shifted from Basel to Bern until it joined Bern Canton in 1815. Still standing from medieval times are the Church of St. Benedict, noted for its stained glass, and the town hall, built in 1534. Iron Age artifacts can be viewed at the Museum Schwab. Biel's industry is based on machinery and watchmaking.

Probably Switzerland's oldest town, CHUR is the capital of Graubünden Canton. Located in eastern Switzerland about 15 miles from the Austrian border, Chur is surrounded by mountains. A guardian of Alpine routes since 15 B.C., the city was first mentioned as an episcopal see in 600. It became an imperial city in the 15th century and the capital of the canton in 1820. Medieval relics and Roman towers remain in central Chur. The city offers direct connections to the major ski resorts in the area. A train excursion passes through the picturesque village of Filisur, crossing a high bridge over Landwasser River. Greifenstein Castle and La Chanzla, a huge rock with a 33-foot painting of the devil, are located near Filisur. Chur's current population is about 33,000.

FRIBOURG (in German, Freiburg), the nucleus of Swiss Catholicism, is situated 18 miles southwest of Bern on the Saane River. The seat of a bishopric and a Catholic university, this city houses hundreds of art works in its many churches, chapels, and monasteries. Fribourg's oldest section, called the Bourg, towers over the riverside; Gothic houses combine with remnants of towers and gateways to lend a medieval air to the surroundings. St. Nicholas Cathedral's famous organ, the Franciscan Church, the former Augustinian Church of St. Maurice, as well as several convents, are among the city's treasures. Fribourg was founded in 1157 by Berthold IV, duke of Zähringen, and was accepted into full membership in the Swiss Confederation in 1481. Reconstitution of the Confederation by Napoleon in 1803 made Fribourg the capital of a canton of the same name. Heavily dependent on industry, Fribourg has a foundry, electrical equipment factories, breweries, and chocolate plants. The Musée d'Art et d'Histoire houses various art pieces. This city of 33,000 is situated on important railway lines and is also a bus center.

The typically Swiss town of GSTAAD , surrounded by glaciers, lakes, forests, and mountains, is situated in the Saane Valley, 33 miles east of Lausanne and 32 miles south of Bern. One of Switzerland's premier winter resorts, Gstaad offers skiing in both winter and summer. There are opportunities here for other sports activities, including ice skating, curling, and horseback riding; there is also an indoor swimming pool. Gstaad, at an altitude of nearly 3,500 feet, has a population of close to 2,500.

LOCARNO is a small city of 15,000 in Ticino Canton. The Germans call it Luggarus, but most of the residents are Italian-speaking, and the German name is seldom heard. Locarno, tucked into the northern shore of Lake Maggiore, has a warm climate which has made it famous as a winter and health resort. The town's administrative buildings once were the castles of the dukes of Milan, who took possession of the area in 1342. Locarno has been part of the Swiss Confederation since early in the 16th century.

LUCERNE (in German, Luzern), is central Switzerland's beautiful "old world" city and summer resort. It lies on the northwest end of Lake Lucerne, the Vierwaldstättersee (Lake of the Four Forest Cantons ). The fine hotels of Lucerne are filled to capacity throughout the summer season, as tourists flock from all parts of Europe to enjoy the scenery, the historic places, and the superb, although expensive, shopping. Among Lucerne's main attractions are its famous covered bridges, the 14th-century Kapellbrücke, and the 15th-century Mühlenbrücke; the Glacier Gardens, with the stone Lion of Lucerne; the eighth-century Hofkirche; the exquisite Jesuit church; and the interesting museums. Lucerne, which joined the Swiss Confederation in 1332, was a stronghold of Catholicism during the Reformation. Its current population is 58,000.

LUGANO is situated in southern Switzerland in Ticino Canton. A commercial center in the Middle Ages, it was taken in 1512 from the duke of Milan by the Swiss Confederation. Italian in character, and in spoken tongue, it has become a popular resort on Lake Lugano, between Switzerland and Italy, and has been called the "Rio de Janeiro of the old continent." It is the site of the lovely Roman Catholic cathedral of San Lorenzo, and a 15th-century monastery, Santa Maria degli Angeli. Lugano's population is approximately 26,000.

The well-known resort of MONTREUX is located in western Switzerland on the east end of Lake Geneva, 15 miles southeast of Lausanne. A lively, cosmopolitan city of 22,000, Montreux offers a temperate climate. As an artistic and intellectual center, the city has an extensive program of plays, concerts, and balls, climaxed in September by an internationally acclaimed music festival. Excursions are possible to nearby Glion, a winter sports center and resort, and to the winter resort of Caux. St. George's School, a girls' boarding facility for grades five through 13, is located in the resort village of Clarens. Founded in 1927, it offers an American and British education; current enrollment is close to 120. St. George's mailing address is: 1815 Clarens, Switzerland. Also near Montreux, in Chesieres, is Aiglon College, a coeducational boarding school for grades six through 13. Founded in 1949, and with a current enrollment of 250, the school provides a British curriculum. Aiglon College's address is: 1885 Chesieres, Switzerland.

NEUCHÂTEL is a city of 40,000 residents in western Switzerland, about 25 miles west of Bern. It is situated in the Jura Mountains, on the shore of Lake Neuchâtel, the largest lake entirely within Swiss boundaries. A university was established here in 1272, and today the city is the administrative center of the canton of Neuchâtel as well as a commercial center (watches, jewelry, appliances), set amid forests and vineyards, and surrounded by interesting little villages. Archaeologists have found remains of ancient Celtic lake dwellings here.

SAINT GALL (Sankt Gallen, in German) is located 39 miles east of Zurich in northwest Switzerland. This city of 70,000 developed in 621 around a Benedictine monastery founded by the Irish monk Gallus. Known for its textile trade and the headquarters of the Swiss embroidery trade, Saint Gall is a leading industrial center that also produces glass and metal goods. Situated between Lake Constance and the Säntis mountain range, Saint Gall is a natural gateway to Austria and Germany as well as a garden city with a long history as a cultural center. The city's greatest treasures are its many historic buildings, including the baroque cathedral and the churches of St. Laurenz and St. Mangen. New structures here include the new market district, the municipal theater, and the city hall. There are numerous parks, and the library contains many notable manuscripts. Festivals and trade fairs are held annually in Saint Gall from spring through fall. The Swiss Agricultural and Dairy Fair draws over 400,000 visitors to the city every year.

SCHAFFHAUSEN is the capital of Schaffhausen Canton, 23 miles north of Zurich in the far north of Switzerland. The Rhine River flows by this city of 33,000, providing critical hydroelectric power for economic development. Nearby Schaffhausen Falls, on the Rhine, cascade from a height of 65 feet, drawing tourists from all over Europe. The Protestant Münster, or cathedral, is thought to have inspired the great German poet Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805) to write his "Das Lied von der Glocke" ("The Song of the Bell"). The people of Schaffhausen today are predominantly German-speaking.

Protestants, employed in manufacturing or in local hydroelectric plants. The area was first known as Villa Scafhusun in 1045, but development actually began after Count Eberhard III established the Benedictine Monastery of All Saints here a few years later. Although Schaffhausen had been nominally a free imperial city since the early 11th century, it endured domination by the Hapsburgs from about 1330 until it purchased its freedom 85 years later. In 1501, the Swiss Confederation admitted Schaffhausen as a full member. Many centuries-old buildings remain here. The huge Munot Fort (1564-85), the parish church, two town halls, and the Haus zum RitterKnight's Houseare foremost among landmarks. The Knight's House, erected in 1485, is decorated with frescoes by Tobias Stimmer.

ST. MORITZ is the noted winter resort and playground of international society. It is situated in the Canton of the Grisons in eastern Switzerland, at an altitude of 6,000 feet. Centuries before it gained fame as a fashionable resort, it was renowned for its thermal baths. St. Moritz has a population of nearly 6,000.

THUN (in French, Thoune) is a city of about 40,000 people on the Aare River, 15 miles southeast of Bern in the central region. This is the hub of the Bernese Oberland, producing machinery, cheese, pottery, and watches. Tourism also plays an important economic role in Thun. The 12th-century Scherzligen Church, the town hall, and a medieval castle number among tourist favorites. The Zähringen-Kyburg castle here contains a tower and living area, and is now a museum. Thun, founded in the 10th century, was part of the Burgundy kingdom until 1190, when it passed to various dukes and counts, and finally to Bern in 1384.

ZUG , population 23,000, is the capital city of one of the smaller Swiss cantons and is located 18 miles south of Zurich. Zug is a city of contrasts. Its policy of low taxations has made it an attractive place of business for international financiers and for such companies as Nutrasweet and Lego. The modern buildings and new shopping mall are located near the train station. Five minutes from this corporate area is the old town, with its Post-platz, timber-framed houses, octagonal stone fountain, Zytturm (Time Tower), and late-Gothic church, St. Oswald's. Lake Zug is located nearby and provides opportunity for water sports and hiking. The restaurants in the area serve fish caught fresh from the lake.


Geography and Climate

Switzerland covers an area of 15,944 square miles, which is approximately twice the size of New Jersey. A quarter of the country consists of glaciers, mountains, and lakes; another quarter is covered by forests. Because of the varied topography (from an altitude of 633 feet above sea level in the Ticino canton to 15,203 feetthe Monte Rosa peakin the Alps), climate and vegetation vary from Mediterranean to arctic. Bern does not have great extremes of hot or cold weather. Rain is common in summer as well as winter, with snowfalls in Bern occurring with more regularity in recent years. Humidity is high during spring and fall. Winter brings some warm spells, and all-day fog and cloudy weather are common. Often a 30-minute drive will get you out of the clouds and into sunshine. The Föhn, a dry south wind that passes over the Alps changing the air pressure, has an enervating and otherwise unpleasant effect on some people. Sinus problems are often aggravated by the dampness. The average high temperature in July is 30°C (88°F), and the average low for that month is 6.1°C (45°F). In February, the thermometer reaches 5.4°C (42°F) and dips to about-10°C (12°F).


Switzerland's population is approximately 7.2 million (December 2000 estimate). More than three-fourths of the people live in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains from Geneva to the Rhine.

Switzerland has three official languages: German, French, and Italian. Romansch, based on Latin, is principally spoken by a small portion of the people in the Graubunden canton. The Swiss version of German is spoken by about 70% of the population. Spoken Swiss German differs substantially the German spoken in Germany and Austria. It frequently varies from canton to canton, even from town to town. High German is the written language and is also used in most TV and radio shows, on the stage, and in university lectures. French is the first language in the cantons of Fribourg, Jura, Vaud, Valais, Neuchatel, and Geneva. Italian is the first language of the Ticino canton and in some areas of the Graubunden canton. English is a common foreign language for most educated Swiss.

The percentage of Protestants to Catholics among the Swiss is about equal. Confessional differences run across linguistic linesthere are both German-and French-speaking cantons that are predominately Protestant or Catholic. The Italian-speaking Ticino canton is Catholic.

Switzerland's cantons differ in history, customs, and culture, as well as in size and natural setting. As a national group, the Swiss are generally serious-minded, forthright, and conscientious. Living patterns are similar to those in the U.S., although the Swiss are more formal and conservative than Americans. Their practicality is reflected in their architecture, furnishings, clothing, and food.

Public Institutions

Switzerland has a federal government structure with a bicameral legislature. Members of the National Council, the lower house, are directly elected in districts apportioned by population. Voting is by a complex proportional representation system. The upper house, the Council of States, is composed of 46 members, 2 members from each canton (three are divided into "half-cantons" with 1 member each), who are elected by methods individually determined by the cantons. Executive power rests in the seven-member Federal Council, a unique Swiss political institution. Members of the Council are elected individually by both houses of the legislature for 4-year terms, though in practice Councilors are reelected as long as they wish to serve. The President of the Federal Council is also the President of the Swiss Confederation. The office is filled by the Council members in rotation for 1-year terms. Each Federal Councilor heads one of the seven executive departments.

The four major political parties are the Free Democratic Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Christian Democratic Party, and the Swiss People's Party. There are over a dozen other significant national or regional parties.

Switzerland's cantons historically precede the Confederation, which was established when three cantons joined together against the Hapsburgs in 1291. Within the Federal system, each canton has its own constitution and active political life. Cantonal governments have primary responsibility for law and order, health and sanitation, education, and public works and are almost exclusively responsible for the implementation of Federal law. The Federal executive branch ensures internal and external security, upholds the cantonal constitutions, and maintains diplomatic relations with foreign nations.

Under the Swiss judicial system, a single national code exists for civil, commercial, and criminal law. The only Federal court is the Federal Tribunal, which has final appellate jurisdiction. All courts of first instance, and all prosecutors, are cantonal.

Military service is compulsory for physically able male adults and includes basic training and decreasing mandatory annual service until age 42 (longer for officers). Switzerland can rapidly mobilize approximately 400,000 soldiers. After delivery of the 34 recently purchased F/A-18 fighter aircraft, Switzerland will have approximately 360 aircraft in its inventory. A December 2001 referendum allowed citizens to vote on whether or not to decrease spending and manpower for the army (which is one of the largest in Europe), considering that the country has not been involved in battle since the 1798 invasion of Napoleon and has maintained neutral status since 1515. An overwhelming majority voted to maintain the force as a key factor in protection of the nation's neutralilty.

Despite its prized neutrality status, Switzerland voted in March 2002 to accept UN membership. Membership in the European Union, however, has been rejected by Swiss voters.

Geneva is the seat of many international organizations, including the European Office of the U.N., several of its specialized agencies, and nongovernmental organizations such as the International Red Cross. Bern serves as host city to the Universal Postal Union.

Arts, Science, and Education

Switzerland is well endowed with cultural institutions. The opera and theater play an important part in the life of the urban elite. In Bern, most stage performances are in German, some in Swiss dialect, and some in French. Operas are usually in the original language. English-language amateur and professional stage productions are to be found occasionally in the larger cities.

Music education is important and standards are high. Many musical groups perform in Switzerland, and the Geneva-based Orchestre de la Suisse Romande is world famous. Many cities, including Bern, have orchestras. Bern also has a Conservatory of Music with frequent concerts by students, which are open to the public.

Switzerland has a high literacy rate. Two Federal technical institutes and eight cantonal universities produce exceptionally qualified professionals in all fields. A highly developed system of apprenticeship training develops an unusually qualified labor force of technicians and craftsmen.

Commerce and Industry

The Swiss economy is a highly developed free enterprise system, heavily export-oriented, and characterized by a skilled labor force. About 40% of the Gross National Product is earned abroad, of which 80% is from the sale of export products. Principal industries include machinery and metal working, chemical and pharmaceutical products, watches, and textiles. Other important business activities include tourism, international banking, and insurance.

The worldwide economic recession of the early 1990s has pushed Switzerland's traditionally insignificant unemployment rates up, but they remain well below average West European levels. About 20% of the Swiss labor force is made up of foreign workers. There are well-developed trade union organizations in most industries and trades, but strikes are very rare due to a unique peace agreement concluded decades ago between labor and management.

Swiss attitudes toward property ownership and investment are stricter than those in the U.S. Real estate purchase by a nonresident or a company not incorporated in Switzerland is subject to individual review by cantonal authorities and is permitted in only certain specifiedusually recreationalareas.

Although a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), Switzerland trades mostly with the European Union (its largest single trading partner is the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG)). It has had a free trade agreement in industrial products with the European Union (EU) since l973. In 1992 Switzerland voted against membership in the European Economic Area (EEA). Membership in the EEA or EU is unlikely for the foreseeable future because of requirements that would demand changes in Switzerland's constitutional order, their procedures for direct democracy, and their autonomy in international actions.



The Swiss Federal Railway system is entirely electric and connects the main cities and towns. Trains are clean and run on schedule; fares are reasonable, with special round-trip and holiday rates. It is possible to buy a yearlong pass on the entire Swiss railroad network including the public transportation systems of all major cities. Porters are infrequent, charge a minimum of two Swiss francs and expect a small tip for handling baggage. Self-service luggage carts are available at all major train stations as well as airports.

Bern has excellent train and highway connections with all points in Europe.

Most points not accessible by train can be reached by passenger buses operated by the postal system. There are over 100 mountain funiculars and aerial tramways in Switzerland, and regular steamer services operate on major lakes in spring and summer.

Local transportation systemstrams, buses, trolley buses, and taxisare convenient and efficient. Taxi fares are comparable to those in Washington; all taxis have meters, and drivers expect a 10-15% tip.

Fire engines are red, police cars white or black, ambulances white with blue lights, and official postal vehicles gold and black.

Swiss roads are good though often narrow and winding. A network of freeways exists, with additions and expansions in progress. Many mountain passes are closed by snow in winter, but road tunnels and railway car ferries operate through the St. Gotthard and Lotschberg passes. Road directional signs are excellent and all traffic moves on the right. An annual SwF 40 autobahn sticker is required.


Geneva and Zurich are major European flight centers. Daily flights to the U.S. are available from both cities on American carriers. Bern has a small airport in the suburb of Belp with service in Switzerland to Basel and Lugano and in Europe to Amsterdam, Brussels, Elba, Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, and Vienna.

A direct train between Bern and the Kloten (Zurich) International Airport takes 1-1/2 hours; Bern-Geneva by rail is about 1-2/3 hours. Airport railroad stations are integrated into both Zurich and Geneva air terminals; luggage carts may be taken by escalator to trainside or airline check-in.


Telephone and Telegraph

Telecommunications systems are excellent. Direct dialing is possible to all parts of Switzerland, Western Europe, the U.S., and Canada. Major U.S. phone companies' cards are also available and offer U.S. rates. Callback services are available and competitive.

Radio and TV

Swiss radio broadcasts in the three principal Swiss languages with a few programs in Romansch. Programming is of good quality with more talk programs than in the U.S. Broadcasts from other European countriessuch as AFN Stuttgart, VOA, Radio Luxembourg, and BBCare available through cable radio in many areas.

Cable television is available with transmissions from two British channels as well as from Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and CNN. The modest monthly charges are sometimes included in leases for apartments or houses. Satellite programming is available with the proper equipment.

As in most of Europe, radio and TV in Switzerland are run by a public corporation. Children's programs are broadcast every day and special programs are sometimes relayed from the U.S. by satellite. News and sports coverage on both radio and TV are good.

Newspapers and Magazines

Newspapers are available in the three national languages. There are over 100 dailies and periodicals in Switzerland. They represent differing political viewpoints and come from various areas of the country. Several weekly and monthly Swiss magazines cover news, women's fashion, television programs, and various hobbies. French, German, and Italian periodicals are also available at local newsstands.

The International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, and international editions of Time, Life, and Newsweek are available at local newsstands or by subscription. Prices are much higher than in the U.S. or the U.K. Several bookstores have English-language departments.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Swiss medical facilities are excellent. Dental work is expensive, so travelers may want to have major dental work done before arriving in Switzerland.

Community Health

Swiss public services are similar to those in other highly developed countries.

The Swiss place a strong emphasis on environmental responsibility and recycling. In most jurisdictions, a fee is charged by volume for garbage collection. Trash is placed in bags purchased in grocery or hardware stores and must carry a surcharge sticker, also available in grocery and hardware stores. Paper and metal are collected periodically, with the schedule distributed in the newspaper at the beginning of the new year. Bins for the recycling of glass bottles, plastics, and aluminum are located at stores and other convenient locations.

The manufacture and sale of adulterated food and beverages are prohibited. Official cantonal inspectors enforce controls. They inspect water, milk, and meat on a regular basis, as well as other foods and containers on a random basis. Sterilization of food containers is good.

Preventive Measures

Switzerland has no endemic contagious diseases. Special measures to treat water or food are not necessary, and no special medical or therapeutical treatment needs be taken before arrival.


Jan. 1New Year's Day

Jan. 2St. Berchtold's Day

Jan. 6 Epiphany

Feb. 2Candlemas

Feb. 14St. Valentine's Day

Feb.Mardi Gras*

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

Mar. 17St. Patrick's Day

Mar. 19St. Joseph's Day

Apr. 1April Fool's Day

May/JuneAscension Day*



Aug. 1Confederation Day

Sept. 5 Jeune Genevois (Geneva)

Oct. 25UN Day

Oct. 31Halloween

Nov. 1All Saint's Day

Nov. 2 All Soul's Day

Nov. 5Guy Fawkes Day

Nov. 11Armistice Day

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 8Immaculate Conception

Dec. 26Stephanstag (St. Stephen's Day)

Dec. 31Restoration Day (Geneva)



Passage, Customs & Duties

If traveling to Switzerland by car, one must have international third-party liability insurance and the green insurance card (Carte Internationale d'Assurance). Without this card, one must buy insurance at each European border crossing.

A passport is required for travel to Switzerland. A visa is not required for U.S. citizens for stays of up to 90 days in either country. For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco. Additional information for both countries is available at

U.S. citizens may register and obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland at the locations below:

The U.S. Embassy in Bern is located at Jubilaeumstrasse 93, Telephone (41)(31) 357-7011, FAX (41)(31) 357-7280.

The 24 hours emergency telephone number is (41)(31) 357-7218. The U.S. Embassy website at answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich, telephone (41)(1) 422-2566, FAX (41) (1) 383-9814.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at the American Center Geneva, 7 Rue Versonnex, 1207 Geneva, telephone (41)(22) 840-5160, fax (41)(22) 840-5162.

U.S. Consular Agencies offer limited consular services to U.S. citizens.


Dogs and cats may be brought to Switzerland with a veterinary certificate of good health and rabies vaccination. The vaccination must be given no less than 30 days and no more than 1 year prior to date of entry.

Currency, Banking and Weights and Measures

One does not need to bring Swiss money. Airports and railway stations all have exchange offices and all hotels will change American money and travelers checks.

Money, travelers checks, and other money instruments may be imported and exported freely.

The Swiss franc (ChF), divided into 100 rappen or centimes, is the basic unit of currency. The abbreviated notation ChF precedes the amount. The Swiss National Bank issues the currency, supervises its circulation, and handles discount and clearing operations for commercial banks. No currency restrictions exist in Switzerland. Exchange is US$1=ChF1.57 (May 2002).

U.S. dollars and travelers checks may be imported and exported freely, and international currencies can be bought or sold at free market rates in local banks. All Swiss banks accept U.S. Treasury checks, travelers checks, cashier checks on U.S. banks, and dollars.


These titles are provided as a general guide to material currently available on Switzerland.


All About Switzerland. Swiss National Tourist Office.

Christensen, Benedicte V. Switzerland's Role As an International Financial Center. Washington, DC: International Monetary Fund, 1986.

Dicks, Diane, ed. Ticking Along Too, Stories About Switzerland, Bergli Books Ltd.: 1990.

Fodor's Switzerland. New York: David McKay, latest edition.

Hilowitz, Janet E., ed. Switzerland in Perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1991.

Kane, Robert S., Switzerland at its Best, Passport Books: 1989.

Off the Beaten Track: Switzerland, Out of the Way Places to Tour and Explore. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.

Switzerland Country Guide. New York: Berlitz, latest edition.

SwitzerlandA Phaidon Cultural Guide, with over 600 color illustrations and 34 pages of maps. Prentice-Hall, Inc.: 1985.

History, Politics, Cultural History

Hughes, Christopher. Baedecker. Guide to Switzerland: 1981.

McPhee, John. Place de La Concorde Suisse, Farrar Straus Giroux, New York: l983.

Milivojevic, Marko & Pierre Maurer, eds. Swiss Neutrality and Security, Armed Forces, National Defense and Foreign Policy, Berg Publishers: 1990.

Sauter, Marc R. Switzerland from Earliest Times to the Roman Conquest. Thames & Hudson Ltd.: 1976.

Treichler, Hans Peter. L'Aventure Suisse, Migros Press.

Vuilleumier, Marc. Immigrants and Refugees in Switzerland. Pro Helvetia Arts Council of Switzerland: 1987.

The following listed "Pro Helvetia" brochures may be obtained from the Swiss Embassy in Washington, D.C.:

Alfred Wyler: Dialect and High German in German-Speaking Switzerland.

Bernhard Wenger: The Four Literatures of Switzerland.

Craig, Gordon, A. The Triumph of Liberalism. New York: MacMillan, 1989

Dieter Fahrni: An Outline History of Switzerland. From the Origins to the Present Day.

Dominique Rosset: Music in Switzerland.

Jean-Pierre Pastori: Dance and Ballet in Switzerland.

Marc Vuilleumier: Immigrants and Refugees in Switzerland. An Outline History.

Oswald Sigg: Switzerland's Political Institutions.

Piere Dominice, Matthias Finger: Adult Education in Switzerland.

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Swiss Confederation

Confédération Suisse

Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft



Located in west central Europe, bordered on the north by France and Germany, on the east by Austria and Liechtenstein, on the south by Italy, and on the west and south-west by France, this landlocked alpine country has an area of 41,290 square kilometers (15,942 square mi), making it slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey. The capital, Bern, is situated on the Aare River in the north-western part of the country; the largest city is Zürich in the north; other major cities include Geneva and Lausanne in the south-west, Basel in the north, and Lugano in the south.


The population of Switzerland was estimated at 7,262,372 in July 2000; the population growth rate in that year was 0.3 percent, and the immigration rate was 1.38 per 1,000 population. Population density was among the highest in Europe, at about 176 persons per square kilometer (455 per square mile). The population is aging, and it has a high life expectancy79.6 years for the total population (76.73 for men, and 82.63 for women). Consequently, the median age increased to 42.6 years in 1999 from 37.2 five years earlier. Some 15.4 percent of the population are 14 years old and younger, and 16.7 percent are 65 and older.

The majority of the population, about 62 percent, lives in urban areas, and with the exception of Zürich, Geneva, Basel, and Lausanne, mostly in small towns. Most of Switzerland is mountainous and the population is unevenly distributed, concentrated in the valleys and the plains.

Switzerland's ethnic composition is complex and includes 3 major traditional language communities: German (about 64 percent of Swiss citizens), French (about 19 percent), and Italian (about 10 percent), along with the traditional Romansch (Rhaeto-Roman) language community (about 1 percent). Other ethnic groups include Spaniards, Portuguese, Turks, Albanians, former Yugoslavs, and others. Religious groups include Roman Catholics (46 percent), Protestants (40 percent), others (7 percent), and no religious faith is reported by 7 percent. The very slow population growth and the sizeable surplus of jobs in the economy (particularly in the services sector) have brought in many foreign guest workers from Italy, Spain, Portugal, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere. Guest workers are now estimated, with their families, to constitute nearly one-fifth of the entire population.

Switzerland has been the destination for many economic immigrants and asylum seekers, which has led to growing internal tensions. The fear of being overrun by foreigners has been a persistent Swiss topic in domestic political debate for decades. There have been many attempts to limit the number of foreigners by legislative means. In 2000, the Swiss electorate voted on a referendum to impose an 18 percent quota on the number of foreign workers in the country. They decided against the measure, although the supporters of the quota argued that the influx of foreigners in the 1990s was equal to the population of the 6 smallest (and politically most conservative) Swiss cantons (confederate units).


Switzerland, by all accounts one of the most prosperous and stable market economies in the world, has a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of $27,100, roughly one-fifth higher than the average of the large Western European countries. Its per capita income remains the highest in Europe, even after a decade of comparative stagnation in the 1990s. Switzerland is traditionally considered a safe haven for foreign investors, because it has maintained political neutrality, an elaborate banking system with a high degree of bank secrecy, and it has maintained its currency's value through the instabilities of surrounding Europe's wars and crises. Switzerland is pursuing European Union (EU) membership only in the long runover a ten-year periodbecause of the widely-held suspicions of many Swiss that effective involvement with the rest of Europe could jeopardize their unique economic stability. Yet the EU is by far its largest trading partner and Switzerland has signed several agreements to liberalize trade ties with the union. Switzerland has also brought its economy largely into conformity with EU regulations to improve its international competitiveness.

Swiss industries, notably engineering and machinery, electronics, metals, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, are renowned for their precision and quality and contribute to more than half of the country's export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is self-sufficient for almost two-thirds of its food and exports several world-famous delicacies, yet it also imports about $6 billion worth of agricultural commodities annually. Its mostly small-scale farmers are among the most highly protected and subsidized producers in the world. Tourism, banking, and insurance are traditionally leading sectors in the economy. Swiss trading companies have good expertise in many parts of the world, such as eastern Europe, the Far East, Africa, and the Middle East. Switzerland has a well-developed tourist infrastructure and the Swiss themselves are keen travelers. The country is the seat of many international inter-governmental and private organizations, from the United Nations (UN) and its associated organizations, to CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (which gave birth to the World Wide Web), to the International Red Cross, and is also host to numerous multinational corporations .

In the late 1990s, the Swiss economy emerged from several years without growth caused primarily by the strong Swiss franc, which made its exports too expensive abroad. The overall slowdown in Europe, which also hurt tourism, was another barrier to exports. Following the depreciation of the franc in 1997 and the stronger economic conditions in Europe since, Swiss growth reached 2.3 percent in 1998, fell off to 1.54 percent in 1999, and then hit 3.43 percent in 2000. Unemployment peaked at 5.2 percent in 1997 and was reduced to less than 2 percent by 2000. Domestic consumer spending is an important factor keeping the economy in good shape, and competitive pressures in the European markets are supporting extensive domestic capital spending.

After Swiss voters, doubtful of the benefits of more intimate ties with their neighbors, rejected the framework European Economic Area (EEA, providing for closer cooperation as a possible introduction to EU membership) in a referendum in 1992, the Swiss federal government started negotiating separate bilateral sectoral agreements with the EU. An agreement covering several sectors (including land and air transport and agriculture) was signed in 1998. The federal government has declared its commitment to EU membership as a long-term goal, although it is opposed by many citizens who fear such results as harm to heavily subsidized Swiss agriculture by letting in cheaper EU foods, increases in unemployment by flooding the country with more guest workers, and damage to the environment from heavier truck traffic through Swiss territory.

Yet a substantial majority of 67.2 percent in 2000 backed, in a referendum pushed through by anti-European nationalist groups, a new package of bilateral agreements with the EU. Only 2 of the 26 cantons, Ticino and Schwyz, voted against the package. The Italian-speaking Ticino was concerned about the influx of workers from neighboring Italy, and Schwyz, a German-speaking conservative stronghold, had stood in the way of every pro-European initiative. The agreements, which include the introduction of free movement of people between the EU and Switzerland and the removal of existing administrative barriers to EU trucking through Swiss territory, are designed to compensate for the country's non-member-ship in the EEA, with which it conducts over two-thirds of its trade. The prudent Swiss have negotiated a number of opt-out clauses in case the inflow of EU citizens and trucks gets higher than expected.


Switzerland has developed a unique federal system with a weak collective federal government, local autonomy, and a strong, largely self-regulating civil society. Many powers are delegated to the 26 cantonal (confederate units) governments and the smaller communes (counties). For instance, it is the communes (and the population itself by referendums) that grant applying individuals Swiss citizenship.

The bicameral legislature, called the Federal Assembly, consists of a 46-member Council of States, or Standerat, whose members are elected in cantonal elections, and a 200-member National Council, or National-rat, whose members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation every 4 years. The members of the Federal Assembly select the 7 members of the Federal Council (cabinet), who lead the federal ministries for finance, foreign affairs, justice, economics, interior, transportation (with energy and environment), and defense (with sports). The mostly ceremonial position of president of the council (head of government) is rotated annually according to the seniority of the member councilors. Members sometimes exchange their responsibilities as new members are appointed, or new appointees may take over the portfolios of outgoing councilors. The council strives to present a collegial image and rule by consensus but its deliberations are private. Issues on which no consensus can be reached are determined by a secret cabinet vote and its results are not reported. The composition of the council parallels the traditional 4-party coalition that has ruled Switzerland since the late 1950s.

The 4 political groups, usually receiving 70-75 percent of the total popular vote at parliamentary elections, fill the seats on the council. These elections are held once every 4 years. These include the Free Democrats (FDP), the Christian People's Party (CVP), and the Swiss People's Party (SVP), all center-right parties, and the Social Democrats (SP), a left-of-center formation. The 3 largest parties by their popular vote, FDP, CVP, and SP, receive 2 seats each on the Federal Council; and the SVP gets one. In addition, there are at least 2 seats on the council reserved for French-speaking members from any party. This consensual combination of left and right wings and ethnic elements has allowed the coalition to maintain political, ethnic, and social peace, although it has been criticized by supporters of more radical moves.

Since the 1990s, the need for a more streamlined executive branch has led to the consideration of some revisions to the Swiss constitution that may eventually result in a strengthening of the president's powers. Any revision of the legislation, however, is slow and is subject to a referendum challenge before coming into force. Treaties and agreements approved by the 200-seat Nationalrat (parliament) are also subject to challenge by popular vote in the unique Swiss system of people's initiative and referendum. Virtually every major decision in the country may be put to vote by all the citizens. Only 100,000 signatures are required by law for a people's initiative (petition) to be put to a referendum. The system allows strong popular involvement in the federal and local government and keeps both branches under a close and constant civic scrutiny.

The approval of the bilateral agreements with the European Union (EU) and the rejection of the initiative to limit the proportion of foreigners at the 2 referendums in 2000 were welcomed with relief by the federal government. Given the fresh controversy over the treatment of Holocaust victims by Swiss banks during and after World War II (1939-45), a vote in favor of foreigners' restriction and against the EU agreements would have presented a serious embarrassment for the government and would gravely damage the country's reputation abroad.

European integration policy remains an important focus of political debates, as the government remains convinced that strategic national interests would be best protected by a complete integration into the EU. Switzerland is not economically disadvantaged by staying outside the EU. In the late 1990s, it has been doing better than EU leaders Germany or Italy, growing at a rate unseen since the 1980s, when Switzerland was regarded as Europe's economic model. It also has an uniquely massive balance of foreign payments surplus equal to more than 8 percent of its GDP.

Switzerland lies in the center of Europe, and almost two-thirds of its exports are shipped to EU members, and four-fifths of its imports come from the union. Consequently, Switzerland's future prosperity is definitely related to the development of the EU. Many Swiss feel that their country is becoming isolated in Europe. The fact that Switzerland submitted 16 proposals for negotiation to the EU headquarters in Brussels and had to be satisfied with finalizing only 7 of them might indicate that it needs the EU more than vice versa.

Some feel Switzerland is also losing its position in international financial circles. In 1983, the world's leading industrial countries invited Switzerland, as an exception, to share membership in the Group of Tenwith the world's largest economiesbut when the leading finance ministers decided in 1999 to form the Group of 20 of the "systemically most important countries," Switzer-land's name was missing. Thus the Swiss no longer have a reserved seat at the top table of the world's economic deliberations. Furthermore, Switzerland, along with small countries like the Vatican and Tuvalu, has so far refused to join the United Nations (UN), although it is a big financial contributor to the organization and hosts the UN office in Geneva plus many other international organizations. It also refuses to be drawn into peacekeeping and peacemaking operations on the grounds that this would jeopardize its neutrality. Still, Switzerland's influence in the world is far higher than its size and even its economic capacity might suggest.

Switzerland has long since developed a market economy based on free initiative, and government participation in the economy is rather moderate. Freedom of trade and industry are guaranteed by the federal and the cantonal constitutions; state intervention is limited, primarily aimed at providing a favorable economic framework, stable currency and prices, efficient infrastructures, and training the workers. In most areas, the federal government legislates and supervises, but the 26 cantonal governments implement the decisions and enforce the laws. The cantons enjoy a high degree of administrative authority, and their own constitutions and laws. The communes (counties), over 3,000 in number, also have independence, control over all local issues, and collect their own taxes. All levels of government have little involvement in manufacturing and services, but their role is considerable in agriculture protection and in trade regulation. Indirect involvement is particularly reflected in the large number of government regulations, especially at the local level. Rules concerning labor laws, business hours, zoning rules, building codes, environmental and noise codes, and administered prices may seem quite pervasive opposed to the United States or even the EU. Obligatory health insurance is another example of the local approach to state involvement in the economy: insurance and health care are provided privately, but the law requires employees to have the insurance. The government subsidizes those who cannot afford it. In the area of competition, unlike the United States and the EU, legislation is loose and cartels in Switzerland have been openly permitted and only broken up when the government has been able to prove that they are socially and economically harmful, which has seldom been the case. In 1996, a new law strengthened the government's antitrust position in mergers, shifting the burden of proof from the court to corporations engaged in anti-competitive activities. Even by EU standards, the new law was relatively weak.

Swiss tax revenues accounted for 35 percent of GDP in 1998, far below the EU average of 41.5 percent and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average of 37.2 percent. The level of taxation has risen somewhat during the 1990s, reflecting higher social security and medical insurance costs, as well as a lack of economic growth. But the Swiss tax system is widely known in the world business circles for its fairness and is characterized by moderate local and foreign operating income taxation and tax exemption of holding-company income. For this reason, many foreign companies have set up holdings or mixed Swiss subsidiaries to conduct international operations from Switzerland in order to take advantage of lower taxes on their foreign income. Branches of foreign corporations are liberally taxed at the same rate as domestic corporations, unlike many other nations more protective of their national capital. Switzerland has undertaken to make itself even more fiscally attractive for corporate investors, and a corporate tax reform at the federal level removed the annual federal tax on capital in 1998, setting a fixed federal tax on profits at a rate of 8.5 percent.


Switzerland has a dense and efficient rail network and an extensive high-class road system with many tunnels to compensate for the mountainous terrain. Overall there are 4,492 kilometers (2,791 miles) of rail lines and 71,059 kilometers (44,156 miles) of roadways. There are 2 large international airports (at Zürich and Geneva) and a few smaller airports with international connections. Landlocked Switzerland also has a modern marine network with some 30 ocean-going vessels based abroad, and carries out river cargo services with connections to the North Sea via the Rhine river. The port of Basel on the Rhine is a major trading hub with efficient connections between rail, road, and water routes. Switzerland is located on strategic crossroads connecting some of the fastest-growing areas of the EU in France, Germany, and Italy.

The agreements with the EU, approved by the referendum in 2000, included the areas of air transport (providing for improved access for Swiss carriers in Europe and similar rights for EU carriers in Switzerland) and road transport (in return for better access to the EU's road haulage market, Switzerland's 28-metric ton truck weight limit will be relaxed in 2001, with full access for the EU's larger 40-metric ton trucks by 2004). Under the new system of taxing heavy trucks by weight, distance traveled, and pollution caused, big trucks will be required to pay a toll of up to US$200 to cross the country. The opening to bigger trucks prompts Swiss authorities to reexamine road infrastructure, and they have started installing electronic devices on trucks to record the mileage traveled in the country, so that tolls could be calculated correctly. In 2001, a 34-metric ton truck meeting the environmental standards is expected to pay about US$95 to travel from Basel on the German border to Chiasso on the Italian border (in 1999, the toll was about US$24).

Airlines also benefited after Swiss voters approved closer economic ties with the EU in 2000. SAirGroup, the holding company of the Swissair airline, got the opportunity to buy a controlling stake in Sabena Belgian Airlines. That will expand its scope of cooperation with foreign partners like American Airlines and boost its presence in France, where it also bought a 49 percent stake in a US$1.4 billion umbrella company that included 3 smaller domestic carriers (Air Liberte, Air Littoral, and AOM) that will have a 30 percent share of the domestic market and will be able to challenge the local giant Air France.

Switzerland has large resources of hydroelectric power in the mighty alpine rivers flowing down from glaciers; they are almost fully exploited. In 1996, hydroelectric plants supplied 54 percent of the Swiss electricity production of 55.1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), the lowest proportion for decades, while the country's 5 modern nuclear power stations provided 43 percent. Conventional thermal plants, burning fossil fuels, contributed for only

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Switzerland 337 1,000 535 352.7 235 29.2 421.8 371.37 1,427
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
Germany 311 948 580 214.5 170 73.1 304.7 173.96 14,400
Sweden 445 932 531 221.4 464 50.9 361.4 581.47 3,666
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

3 percent of the electricity. Switzerland usually exports and sometimes imports some electricity when in need, mostly from French nuclear power plants across the border from Geneva. During the 1990s, energy consumption declined slightly, relative to the population. This was possibly because of newer energy saving technologies. The government's 1991 "Energy 2000" program aims to stabilize overall energy consumption, following a referendum in 1990 in which the Swiss voted for a ten-year moratorium on the construction of nuclear power plants, but against abandoning nuclear power altogether.

In 2000, the government proposed the liberalizing of the electricity market (allowing many competing utilities to sell power directly to businesses and households), after an earlier reform version had been disapproved. The new plan envisaged a gradual liberalization of the sector starting in 2001, with complete liberalization 6 years later, at a faster pace than required by the EU rules. In the first 3 years of the reform, only the 110 largest Swiss electricity users (all large companies) will have a free choice of supplier, followed by smaller enterprises, and finally by individual consumers. The government holds that a single company must run the national electricity grid. However, critics of the reform, more suspicious of energy liberalization after the California blackouts in early 2001, stress that the new proposals do not provide remedies for the amortization (pay back) of existing sizeable investments in plant and equipment that may be made unprofitable by liberalization. The revenues from a new energy tax, the introduction of which is under consideration and has not yet been approved by parliament, however, may fund some of the required investments. Others may be funded by a surcharge on electricity bills for domestic consumers who are unable to change their suppliers and will be required to pay for the right to remain with their providers. Swiss industry captains pushed for a quick transition. This would cut their electricity bills, which are the highest in Europe, by as much as 25 to 30 percent. The liberalization program, nevertheless, makes a referendum challenge likely, given the political clout of the liberalization critics. The country has some 1,200-electricity producers, most of which are likely to go out of business when liberalization occurs. Many are small companies owned by mountain communes and still enjoy considerable political influence. In anticipation of liberalization, the electricity sector is already undergoing restructuring . In 2000, 3 electricity companies in western Switzerland struck a strategic alliance aimed mainly at providing electricity services to customers, including buying electricity for them in the European markets.

The Swiss telecommunications market was fully liberalized in 1998, in line with the EU telecom regulations. The state-owned telecommunications company, Swiss-com, was split off from the postal service and partly privatized through stock market offerings in 1998. Private companies such as Diax and Sunrise compete with Swiss-com in the full range of telecom services, though in early 1998 they were still arguing over the very high charges demanded by Swisscom to allow them to use its network. Rival private operators are not allowed to build competing networks for connection to private homes, and therefore the interconnection rates charged by Swisscom are crucial for them. By cutting rates for international long-distance calls, Sunrise has already begun to attract customers from Swisscom, which faces additional competition from numerous mobile phone operators.

There is still a growing demand for telecom services, but they are subject to an already very competitive environment as more than 40 local and international carriers are competing in all areas of telecommunication services. Swisscom tries to keep its grip on the most profitable sectors of growth, such as mobile communications, voice transmission, closed user groups, and particularly large business accounts, value-added services, including private virtual networks, and design and operation (with its partners Cisco, Siemens, Alcatel, Ascom/Ericsson) of asynchronous transfer mode (ATM) computer networks. Foreign investment in the Swiss telecom sector is heavy, as many international carriers, such as the American MCI/Worldcom and Sprint-Global One, have established themselves locally, followed by other large players like British Telecom, France Telecom, and Tele Denmark. Vodafone, the British wireless giant, is expected to invest about 5 billion euros in Swiss mobile phone operators. Vodafone has agreed to acquire a 25 percent stake in Swisscom's mobile division but is waiting for final approval from the government, which still has a 65.5 percent stake in the company; the deal will be worth up to 4 billion euros. France Telecom has increased its stake in the Swiss operator Orange Communications by buying (for approximately 1 billion euros) 42.5 percent of Orange's stock from Eon, a German energy group. Massive foreign investment is not only beneficial for customers, but also helps Swiss companies keep up with the latest trends in the market. The introduction of telephone cards by AT&T, MCI, and Sprint-Global One, for example, prompted Swiss companies to introduce their own telecom cards to Swiss subscribers and international travelers.

The International Telecommunication Union, based in Geneva, is an important facilitator in world telecommunications, issuing standard recommendations and organizing important conferences and trade events, such as the quadrennial Telecom exhibition, which is a forum for multinational debates.

Switzerland has high computer usage rates and a large percentage of the population uses computers on a regular basis. 57 percent of the Swiss households owned personal computers and 38 percent had access to the Internet by 2000. This was less than Sweden's 53.5 percent but more than Germany, France, or Italy, where only around 18.1 percent of the population had Internet access. There are more than 150 Internet service providers (ISPs) in Switzerland. Some of the major firms include Blue Window, Iprolink, Infomaniak, Compuserve, and AOL Switzerland. There are also many smaller free services. E-commerce is also increasing rapidly, but the cautious and conservative approach of European consumers has meant that growth will be slower than in the United States in 1998-1999, particularly after the U.S. and European dotcom meltdown in late 2000.


As a country deprived of large natural resources but abounding in skilled labor, Switzerland has concentrated on the financial services sector and on research-intensive engineering, world-famous for precision and quality. Both sectors together account for more than half of export revenues. In agriculture, Switzerland is about 65 percent self-sufficient and imports about US$6 billion of agricultural products annually. Swiss farmers, since World War II among the most heavily subsidized groups of producers in the world, are challenged as EU pressure mounts on Switzerland to liberalize food imports. Tourism is also a traditionally major economic power-house. International trade is a large contributor to the economy. In 1995, 2.8 percent of GDP was created in agriculture, 31.1 percent in industry, and 66.1 percent in services.


The Swiss soils, terrain, and climate do not favor agriculture particularly and farms are usually family enterprises, mostly small in size. They produce cereals such as wheat and barley, root crops such as sugar beets and potatoes, and fruits such as apples and grapes. About 124 million liters (33 million gallons) of wine, at subsidized prices, are produced annually. Dairy products, such as cow's milk and world-renowned Swiss cheeses, make up a significant portion of the agricultural revenue. Livestock include cattle, pigs, sheep, horses, and poultry. After World War II, agriculture has lost its relative weight in the economy (though not its traditional clout in society or politics), and its preservation as a sector has been due largely to governmental intervention and support. To protect farmers and serve the national security goal to remain largely self-sufficient in food, the federal government has developed a complex system of protections effectively restricting imports of agricultural products, notably dairy and grains. High import tariffs and tariff rate quotas (limiting the merchandise quantities that can be imported from a certain country or generally) are maintained for most products which are domestically produced. Producers, particularly those in alpine and other difficult zones, are especially actively supported. Approximately 80 percent of gross farm income can be attributed to government intervention. Milk price supports are one of the principal staples of protectionism and that product's prices remain significantly higher than in the EU markets.

Since 1993, the Swiss system for protecting farmers has slowly begun a fundamental reform, due to the need to reduce costs for the budget and to the pressure from consumers and trading partners. Trade liberalization agreements require Switzerland to eliminate import barriers, reduce export subsidies , revise agricultural tariffs, and cut domestic support. Consequently, the Swiss agricultural sector will become less protected and more open to market forces and increasingly accessible to foreign goods. The government's position is that Swiss agricultural policy and regulations will be adjusted to be more in line with EU policies leading to reductions in administered prices. The process of agricultural policy reform started in 1993 when the prices of the politically sensitive dairy sector were first slightly reduced. The reform culminated in 1998, when the Parliament approved a new package of agricultural policy measures. According to the package, administrated prices will continue to decline and direct payments to farms will be gradually linked to their of use environmental production methods such as organic agriculture. On the other hand, trade agreements with the EU that lowered tariffs and other barriers to trade in agricultural goods will boost both exports of Swiss cheese and other delicacies and the imports of a range of EU-produced fruit, vegetables, and beverages into Switzerland.


Although raw materials are very limited in Switzerland, the country has a world-class manufacturing economy fabricating raw material imports into high-value added exports. The engineering industry, together with metals and electronics, employs about 9 percent of the country's workforce and contributes around 40 percent to Swiss export revenues. Leading areas in the sector include precision engineering, in particular the world-renowned Swiss clocks and watches (accounting for 8 percent of export revenues in the early 1990s); scientific instruments; heavy engineering and machine building, including specialized, custom-built equipment such as generators and turbines; food products, particularly specialized luxury goods such as chocolate and cheese; textiles; chemicals; quality pharmaceuticals; and fine handicrafts.

Moderate GDP growth, both domestically and in Europe, has been keeping manufacturing growth down over much of the early and mid-1990s, but restructuring efforts carried out over the late 1990s have left the sector in a better and more competitive position. The strong tradition for creativity and innovation demonstrated by the Swiss industry in the past continues to thrive, particularly in new materials technology, micromechanics, and microelectronics, and other research and development-based products. Environmental technologies are expected to have a very good growth potential. The entering into force of multilateral trade liberalization accords signed in the 1990s (under the former General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which was succeeded by the World Trade Organization, and also with the EU) will be very important for the Swiss machinery sector. Export-oriented engineering manufacturers will benefit from lower tariffs and the liberalization of public procurement procedures within the EU. They will also improve conditions for Swiss direct investments abroad, and bring better protection for Swiss patents and technical know-how in the international markets.

The chemical industry (including the valued Swiss pharmaceuticals) was one of the sectors in the Swiss economy that performed very well in spite of the 1991-1997 recession . As with the engineering sector, chemicals will also benefit from liberalization; the positive effects may be of even greater magnitude. Within the chemical branch, pharmaceuticals offer the biggest growth potential and they will benefit most from better patent protection abroad. Agreements with the EU on the elimination of technical obstacles to trade by mutual recognition of trademarks, technical regulations, other rules and procedures for the testing and certification of industrial goods, will also boost Swiss trade with the union.



Long regarded as the country of the bankers, Switzerland has a robust finance services sector and its most vibrant components are banking and insurance. Within the banking sector, commercial and private banks have the largest influence and growth potential. Swiss banks have been historically renowned for their stability, strictly enforced secrecy policies, privacy, personalized service, and reliability. The increase in world trade and industrial activity after World War II brought more business to commercial banks, particularly to their global operations. With the merger of the Union Bank of Switzerland and Swiss Bank Corporation in 1998, the new United Bank of Switzerland (UBS) is now Europe's second largest bank by total assets. Mutual funds and institutional investors have also vastly gained in importance, and represent very good growth prospects for commercial and private banks. The insurance industry is equally important for Switzerland, and the Swiss are by all measures the most heavily insured people in the world. There are over 100 insurance companies, approximately 10 percent of which specialize solely in the reinsurance business; of the latter, Rueckversicherung is the world's second-largest reinsurance company. Swiss insurance companies have been consistently very strong performers with steadily growing earnings.


A country of scenic landscapes and enterprising people, Switzerland has one of the most robust tourist industries in the world, with extensive facilities and centuries-old traditions, a sector that is one of the leading sources of foreign exchange and employment in the economy. Although the country is a humming crossroads between some of the fastest-growing regions in the EU, foreign visitors usually enjoy lengthy stays instead of simply transiting through. Foreign tourists spent US$11.355 billion in 1998 and over 69 million overnight stays were recorded in the sector offering slightly more than 1 million hotel, chalet, campsite, and youth hostel beds. Foreign tourist positive credit balance reached US$1.046 billion in 1998, and revenue from domestic tourists exceeded US$9 billion. Expenditures in the foreign tourist sector, including investments, surpassed US$10 billion. The country attracted the widest possible range of guests, from affluent elderly people visiting the spas to low-budget young backpackers trekking or "canyoneering" across its numerous mountains. Switzerland has a long list of world-renowned alpine (skiing and hiking) and lakeside tourist resorts, spas, and casinos; world-class cultural events; and many important international organizations and conferences, drawing huge numbers of participants, activists, and observers.


The structure of retail trade in Switzerland has been changing since the 1980s. Independent retailers are decreasing in number, giving way to self-service and discount stores and supermarkets, and a tendency toward specialization in food distribution has been particularly noticeable. Department and chain stores, consumer cooperatives, discount stores, and supermarkets account for a large part of local trade. The tendency in those companies is to deal in a wide range of products and services. Their centralized buying gives them a competitive advantage over independent retailers (they are given a discount by suppliers due to the vast scale of their purchases). Retail traders continue to streamline their operations in order to counter their stiff competition. Scanner cash registers for bar-coded articles are ubiquitous, and the use of electronic cards to ease payment transactions is growing (cards are issued, among others, by the Swiss Post, where numerous Swiss have bank accounts, and are becoming increasingly popular). In 1987, Swiss retail groups united to form an Electronic Payment System Association.

Yet, faced with the competition of large retail establishments with nationwide coverage, individual retailers also set up organizations to provide wholesale purchasing, importing, and other services. Functioning as cooperatives, most of these small retailers' buying groups and associations operate in the foodstuffs business but also in textiles, leather goods, sports articles, pharmaceuticals, toys, and hardware. Home shopping, or the direct sale from a private location, is becoming increasingly popular and has recorded enormous growth. The turnover for direct sales companies has doubled after 1995. The home-shopping boom has reached a record high and products sold range from Tupperware to lingerie to new recipes and cleansing agents. More than 5,700 salespeople are members of the Swiss Association of Direct Marketing Companies (VDF), mail order companies not included. They can count more than 1 million client-contacts yearly, generating a turnover of US$195 million (in 1998). Most of the products sold at "Home Shopping Parties" are top quality and innovative and cannot be found at retail stores. The advantages of home shopping are the advice offered by the sales persons, the relaxed and friendly atmosphere of the private location, the combined shopping and meeting friends experience, and the possibility of testing the products on the spot.


International trade has long been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. Traditionally, its merchandise trade deficit has been generously compensated by a surplus trade in services. This surplus amounted in 1999 to US$18.7 billion or 7.5 percent of GDP. The country is heavily dependent on export markets to maintain its large export sector, supply raw materials for the domestic manufacturers, and diversify the array of goods and services available locally. Switzerland has traditionally very liberal trade and investment policies, its commercial law and legal system are highly developed, and foreign investments are protected by solid domestic policies. The Swiss franc is one of the strongest currencies in the world and the country is known for the soundness of its banking industry, so it has all the major factors benefiting international trade.

Chief Swiss exports include machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, textiles, agricultural products, and imports include raw materials, machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals, agricultural products, and textiles. Principal economic partners in 1998 included the EU, 80 percent (Germany, 33 percent; France, 12 percent; Italy, 10 percent; the Netherlands, 5 percent; Britain, 5 percent); the United States, 6 percent; and Japan, 3 percent. Trade with the EU in 2000 fell below average by 9.9 percent, while exports to the U.S. went up by 15.9 percent and to Japan by 16.4 percent. Export growth was also impressive to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS, the former USSR), South Korea, China, and Turkey, each

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Switzerland
Exports Imports
1975 12.958 13.305
1980 29.632 36.341
1985 27.433 30.696
1990 63.784 69.681
1995 78.040 76.985
1998 75.431 73.877
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

with growth of more than 40 percent, although from a low base in 1999. Irrespective of the fluctuations, the EU remained the crucial economic partner for Switzerland. The strong and flexible Swiss economy reacts to international market fluctuations with an elaborate precision, keeping itself competitive.

Contrary to its traditionally positive foreign trade balance, Switzerland accumulated a trade deficit of nearly US$554 million in the first 9 months of 2000, compared to more than a US$1 billion surplus for the same period of 1998. Such negative trade balance is typical, however, in periods of strong economic growthlike the one Switzerland went through between 1998 and 2000 when higher local incomes boost domestic consumption and imports consequently outgrow exports. The 2000 imbalance, however, was caused by foreign price changes rather than by the strong domestic demand. It is almost certain that if international crude oil prices had remained unchanged over that period, the Swiss trade balance would have accumulated probably a surplus of more than US$500 million. Import growth during the same period was 13.2 percent and the value of imports of energy rose by 87 percent also largely due to increasing oil prices. Export growth was driven by the expansion of the EU and other foreign markets, and strong export growth product categories included precision instruments, watches, and metals. The traditional Swiss watch industry in late 1990s was very successful in exporting mostly watch parts, while exports of ready-made watches were somewhat shrinking. Exports of food (notably cheese and chocolate) were rather weak, as were the international sales of the troubled Swiss textile industry.


The Swiss National Bank, the central bank and the institution which issues currency, has been successful in maintaining the arguably most stable currency in the world but also very skeptical of the benefits of integrating Switzerland with the EU or with its euro currency. With its private banks and insurance companies active globally and rated among the world's best, the Swiss financial services industry is traditionally one of the largest employers and an important export revenue source. Swiss banks, with their firm reputation for financial solidity and respect for privacy, are leaders in global asset management. More than one-half of the US$1.76 trillion in assets managed by Swiss banks are thought to be of foreign origin (according to the Swiss National Bank).

The local banking scene, however, has undergone some serious structural changes in the 1990s, following global consolidation trends. Many small local banks closed or merged and many large ones streamlined their Swiss retail networks while expanding their overseas operations.

Exchange rates: Switzerland
Swiss francs, franken, or franchi (SwFR) per US$1
Jan 2001 1.6303
2000 1.6888
1999 1.5022
1998 1.4498
1997 1.4513
1996 1.2360
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

The total number of banks dropped from 495 in 1990 to 403 in 1996 and the number of regional banks was cut by more than one-third. In 1990, the Swiss banks had also, under pressure from the federal government, to abandon a series of price-fixing arrangements they were indulging in, increasing competition for customers and funds. The domestic recession between 1991 and 1997 and the cuts in spending and borrowing it initiated helped send out of business a number of regional banks with limited deposit bases relying heavily on mortgage lending and loans for local businesses. All these developments have increased the concentration of the Swiss banking sector where the 4 largest banks, including the merged Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) and Swiss Bank Corporation (SBC), account for half the total combined balance sheet. Nevertheless, Switzerland maintains a high bank density, with 1 branch for every 1,400 inhabitants (compared with 2,000 in Germany or 4,700 in the United States), although bank employment decreased from 127,626 in 1990 to 119,771 in 1996. In the long run, the Swiss Bankers' Association fears, up to one-third of the 1996 bank employment could be lost due to consolidation and the use of new technologies in the sector.

Zürich has traditionally been a major international banking center and its equivalent to the New York's Wall Street is the renowned Bahnhofstrasse where the headquarters of the UBS and the Credit Suisse, 2 of Europe's leading banks, as well as many smaller private banks, are located. Although the majority of the UBS staff is based in Switzerland, almost one-third of it is located internationally throughout the world; its global investment banking operations are in London, and its fund management head office is based in Chicago. Credit Suisse has an equally strong presence in both the United States and Europe. But the robust growth and restructuring of Zürich's 2 big banks has generated new opportunities for smaller competitors as well. For example, seasoned bankers that were laid off in the UBS's 1998 merger with SBC have helped the management teams of smaller banks build up their skills. Furthermore, Zuercher Kantonalbank (ZKB), the third-biggest bank in Zürich that subscribed 75,000 new customers in 1999, holds that over 30 percent of those new customers were due to the effects of the merger. And many of the even smaller banks have performed at an even better rate. Julius Baer, for instance, the biggest independent private bank in Zürich, attracted the same amount of new funds in 1998 as did UBS, more than 16 times larger. Vontobel, Zürich's second-largest private bank, increased its profits almost 2 times in 1999 and its return on equity was over 30 percent. The numbers of bank employees, previously decreasing, have stabilized, the leading banks have enlarged their international market share, and a large number of small fund management and corporate finance boutique firms have flourished.

But, in the longer term, there still may be serious threats as Switzerland's big banks and insurance companies have long since outgrown the size of their country, and Zürich's relative importance as an international financial center has decreased as business has moved to major international centers like London, Frankfurt, and New York. A united Europe, with the emergence of the single European currency, the euro, also contributes to the country's increasing financial isolation. But it is still the world's top offshore banking center for private customers, attracting many offshore affiliates of major international firms that use Switzerland as a tax haven . Its success, however, receives the attention of European officials who believe that Switzerland's bank secrecy laws and loose tax rules give it an unfair competitive advantage in attracting offshore capital and also that it is harboring major tax evaders from other countries.

Money laundering allegations and related banking scandals have disturbed the Swiss public opinion throughout the 1990s. To combat transnational organized crime, abusing the liberal Swiss banking system, and partly responding to international pressures, Switzerland gradually relaxed its banking secrecy policies and allowed foreign investigators access to bank records in cases where illegal acquisition or use of funds were suspected. In 1998, new strict money laundering laws were introduced and a significant number of high-profile international money laundering cases were investigated by magistrates in many cantons, particularly in Geneva. In the late 1990s, Swiss prosecutors investigated some serious allegations of money laundering by former top Russian officials through the Swiss company Mabetex. In January 2001, Pavel Borodin, former head of Russian President Boris Yeltsin's administration, was detained by U.S. authorities in New York on request of the prosecution and may be turned over to the Swiss judiciary. Following the Mabetex scandal, the Swiss government launched a political campaign abroad over Switzerland's reputation as a financial center, defending banking secrecy yet emphasizing its willingness to join international efforts to fight transnational organized crime. The government has even quietly encouraged the new government of Nigeria to take legal action in Switzerland to recover national assets allegedly siphoned off by the previous government. It is not certain, however, how the Swiss government will react to pressures from the EU to fight tax evasion that is not a criminal offence in Switzerland. Although unwilling to change its tax and secrecy laws, it is reassuring to many that Swiss laws on fraud and money laundering are so extensive that they effectively cover cases of major tax evasion as well.

In the mid-1990s, the Swiss Banking Association, under pressure from world Jewish organizations, agreed to search its vaults for unclaimed bank deposits allegedly containing assets belonging to Jewish victims of the Holocaust during the World War II. In 1997, the Swiss government endorsed a proposal by several leading banks and businesses to establish a memorial fund for compensating Holocaust survivors and their descendants, although many individuals and groups claimed Switzerland was not doing enough to aid the victims and their descendants. In 1998, class action suits and potential U.S. sanctions against Swiss banks prompted 3 large private banks to agree to participate in a global settlement of all claims and suits against them. The banks agreed to a settlement of US$1.25 billion, allowing Holocaust survivors and their descendants to receive compensation.

The Swiss Exchange was 1 of the 8 European exchanges to sign a memorandum of understanding, formally confirming a commitment to work towards a pan-European equity market with one single electronic trading platform for blue-chip stocks (of large and creditworthy companies renowned for the quality and wide acceptance of their products or services, and for their ability to make money), with common rules and regulations. In addition, the exchange is strengthening ties to London, Europe's leading financial center. In 1999, the exchange granted remote membership for the first time to an institution based in Britain. From its London office, the American securities firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette (DLJ) International Securities became a remote member that can participate in trading on the Swiss electronic exchange from outside the country. DLJ's remote membership followed the admission of Germany's Mees Pierson and Hull Trading. The exchange is trying to make its membership more attractive and to promote the country as a trading area, lowering its admission fee for new members to SwFr25,000 (from SwFr350,000) as the old fee was prohibitive for many brokers. The high fees were intended to pay off the expenses for installing an electronic exchange system in the 1990s.

The Swiss government sees eventual membership into the EU as a core foreign policy target over the next 10 years. However, the SNB has been skeptical of the rewards of integrating with the euro currency. Many Swiss believe that such a move would result in Switzerland

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Switzerland 36,154 39,841 41,718 45,951 44,908
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
Germany N/A N/A N/A N/A 31,141
Luxembourg 21,650 23,926 26,914 35,347 46,591
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

importing the risk of instability associated with the eastward enlargement of the EU. Others hold that linking the Swiss franc to the euro would be risky. If the Swiss franc remained independent, they suggest, it would gain in importance as a diversification currency for international investors.


The Swiss traditionally enjoy one of the highest living standards in the world although they also have an exceptionally high cost of living. Although there are many large private fortunes of local and foreign persons, Switzerland's Gini index score (which measures economic equality, with 0 standing for perfect equality and 100 for perfect inequality) of 33.1 is quite a bit lower than that of the United States (40.8) or the United Kingdom (36.1). The structure of consumption and the quality of life are also among the world's most advanced, according to UN studies. Switzerland's government is working hard to improve its environmental policies and to fight organized crime, reducing the impact of these 2 threats to modern life everywhere in the world.

But there is also some growing sense of insecurity in Switzerland, manifesting itself in a rising concern about immigration, unemployment, and the higher levels of foreign ownership of Swiss property and firms, although such concerns are largely overstated. An in other

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Switzerland
Lowest 10% 2.6
Lowest 20% 6.9
Second 20% 12.7
Third 20% 17.3
Fourth 20% 22.9
Highest 20% 40.3
Highest 10% 25.2
Survey year: 1992
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].

affluent countries in which unemployment is very low (less than 2 percent), the perception of job insecurity is much greater than unemployment itself. The average period employees remain in a job hasn't changed since 1980, and moreover, labor shortages, rather than high unemployment, are likely to be more prevalent in Switzerland, at least over the next 5 years. Likewise, the concern about the influx of refugees is grossly exaggerated. Eastern European countries remain the main source of potential refugees, but as they narrow the GDP per head gap with western Europe, the already quite low levels of migration are likely to be decreased further. The political processes in the former Yugoslavia after the toppling of Slobodan Milosevic in late 2000 may also contribute to a more stable condition and less immigrants from the Balkans region.

Recent takeovers of Swiss firms by large foreign companies have also led to misplaced concerns. As firms denationalize, becoming increasingly international and global in character, the competitiveness of the business environment as a location for firms becomes more important. With Switzerland's highly educated workforce and other positive assets, the result may rather be a long period of high value industrial development and there is little reason to believe that foreign ownership will lead

Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Switzerland 19 6 9 3 18 8 36
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
Germany 14 6 7 2 10 7 53
Luxembourg 17 8 9 3 7 5 52
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

to money flight from the country. If feelings of economic insecurity grow, there may be further calls for protection for Swiss industry in order to preserve domestic employment. Also, there may almost certainly be further tightening of legislation to curb immigration, with the potential for a backlash against government's plans to integrate the Swiss and EU labor markets.


The educated and skilled Swiss workforce, the elaborated laws promoting labor flexibility and safety, and the agreements between the influential trade unions and employers' associations have protected Switzerland from significant labor unrest. The unemployment rate dropped to 1.7 percent in September 2000 and the rate is likely to stabilize, as the principal component of unemployment was caused by the disparity between the required and offered qualifications and mostly unskilled workers continued to have problems in finding jobs. This rate of unemployment was the lowest one since December 1991 and substantially below levels prevalent in EU countries (the most favored of which, Luxembourg, had a rate of 2.2 percent in July 2000, while the preliminary EU rate for August was 8.3 percent).

The economic stagnation from 1991 to 1997 had a major impact on the labor market. Over this period, 255,000 jobs (in full-time job equivalents) were lost. Surprisingly, however, the unemployment situation improved dramatically from a rate of 5.7 percent in February 1997 (the highest in decades) to the low level found in 2000. Indeed, statistics tend to underestimate the real level of unemployment, and if the number of persons in active labor market programs, retraining schemes, and temporary jobs are added, that would raise the underlying rate of unemployment by probably 1 percentage point. Rising employment has also enabled the government to almost halve the number of publicly sponsored jobs, to 7,106 in August 2000 from 13,095 just a year earlier. The ratio of long-term unemployed among all unemployed remained relatively high at 20.9 percent in August 2000, and this number did not include those who fell out of the statistics after reaching the end of the benefit entitlement period (a total of 1,078 persons).

Mutual recognition of academic degrees, diplomas, professional certifications, and social security entitlements was an important element of the recent agreements with the EU aimed at increasing labor mobility . The government envisages the scrapping, over a 6-year period, of the Swiss quota system for work permits for EU and European Free-Trade Association (EFTA) citizens, although limits may be introduced again if inflows of immigrants are stronger than expected. After 7 years, Switzerland can opt out of the pact or continue with it for another 7 years. At this point, freedom of movement for EU and EFTA citizens will become permanent.


4TH CENTURY A.D. Germanic tribes conquer ancient Roman Helvetia, the site of present-day Switzerland.

9TH CENTURY. Most of Switzerland joins the Duchy of Alemannia (Swabia), one of the feudal units of the German kingdom; the southwestern part of the area is taken over by the feudal kingdom of Transjurane Bourgogne.

1033. The Bourguignon part of Switzerland is taken over by Emperor Conrad II and becomes a part of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, consisting of small feudal states ruled by lords, bishops, and abbots, and many independent city-states, which later become cantonal commonwealths.

1276. Emperor Rudolf I Habsburg of the Holy Roman Empire attempts to assert his feudal rights in a threat to the traditional liberties of the Swiss. Three forest cantonsSchwyz, Uri, and Unterwaldenbased around the Lake of Lucerne form a league for mutual defense in 1291. During the 14th century, the cantons of Zürich, Glarus, Bern, Lucerne, and Zug join the league, and in the 15th century Fribourg and Solothurn follow suit.

1474. The Habsburgs, unable to tame the militant Swiss mountaineers, abandon their attempts to acquire their territory, and their confederation becomes directly dependent on the empire.

1499. Emperor Maximilian I attempts to abrogate various Swiss rights; he is later defeated, and, by the Treaty of Basel of the same year, recognizes the virtual independence of the Swiss.

1513. The cantons of Appenzell, Schaffhausen, and Basel enter the confederation and send 2 delegates each to the federal assembly. Swiss mercenaries gradually become famous throughout Europe (and still constitute the papal guard in the Vatican City). Swiss troops annex Italian towns that now form the canton of Ticino in the south of Switzerland. In 1536, Bernese Swiss take Lausanne on the Lake Geneva and various other territories from the duchy of Savoy.

1515. Swiss troops are defeated by the French in 1515 and Switzerland's neutrality policy is then adopted.

1648. Swiss cantons preserve their neutrality in the Thirty Years' War of 1618 to 1648 and achieve formal recognition as a completely independent state by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. The union of the cantons is still quite weak, but a modern market economy develops as Swiss craftsmen win reputation across Europe for quality and skill, and financial services develop.

1798. French-backed revolutionaries occupy Swiss territory. Napoleon Bonaparte, the future emperor of France, unifies the country under the name Helvetic Republic and imposes a written constitution, which, like the French military occupation, is bitterly resented by most of the Swiss.

1803. Napoleon withdraws French troops and by the Act of Mediation grants a new constitution with Swiss approval.

1815. The Congress at Vienna recognizes the perpetual neutrality of Switzerland, and Swiss territory is expanded to include 22 cantons (Geneva is ceded by France), acquiring its modern form.

1847. Political struggles between autocratic and democratic elements and between Roman Catholic and Protestant areas culminate in a civil war between the Sonderbund, a Catholic league, and the federal government, which takes the upper hand. The new constitution of 1848 greatly increases federal power.

1874. A new constitution is passed, which, with modifications, is still in force; it completes the development of Switzerland from a group of cantons to a unified federal state.

1940s-1950s. Switzerland develops its powerful modern economy and, although maintaining its neutrality, becomes a member of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the international trade organization replaced in 1995 by the World Trade Organization (WTO), headquartered in Geneva. Also joins the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (1948), the European Free Trade Association (1959), and the Council of Europe (1963).

1971. Switzerland grants women the right to vote in federal elections and to hold federal office.

1992. Switzerland joins the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). However, Swiss voters reject joining the European Economic Area, a free-trade zone linking many Western European countries.

1994. A referendum declares racial discrimination, racist propaganda, and denial of the Nazi Holocaust illegal.

1995. Under international pressures, Switzerland begins to relax its banking secrecy policies to help fight organized transnational crime.

1997. The Swiss government endorses a proposal to establish a memorial fund to compensate Holocaust survivors and their relatives for funds allegedly retained by Swiss banks.

1998. In December, the parliament elects Social Democrat and former labor union leader Ruth Dreifuss as Switzerland's first woman and first Jewish president.

2000. The Swiss voters approve by referendum a bilateral agreement with the EU and turn down a proposal to limit the quota of foreigners allowed in the country to 18 percent.


By all accounts, Switzerland is likely to maintain and develop its stable and prosperous economy in the foreseeable future but its role in the changing world is likely to be strongly dependent on its gradual integration with the EU. The debates between Euro-skeptics and Euro-enthusiasts will most likely dominate domestic policies, along with the foreign workers controversy. The Swiss economy and society will be trying hard to reformulate their unique identity in the globalizing world.

EU integration will benefit the leading Swiss industries, particularly in manufacturing, but offshore banking and agricultural firms may suffer, which, given their strong political clout, may further disturb the integration process. The participation of the Swiss in the European political process may generate new domestic controversies over time. But in the long run, the benefits of the single European market of goods, capitals, persons, and ideas will outweigh the drawbacks for Switzerland.

The Swiss financial industry will overcome the scandals that have been plaguing in throughout the 1990s, and although a radical change in the tax laws is not likely, will cooperate with the EU and other countries in combating organized transnational crime and tax evasion. The Swiss will preserve their unique system of self-governing and their high standard of living with rising level of employment but the fear of unemployment and of being "overrun" by foreigners will continue to influence the domestic political debate and will often raise the issue of solidarity with the people of less fortunate countries.


Switzerland has no territories or colonies.


Confoederatio Helvetica. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Switzerland. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Embassy of Switzerland in the United States. <>. Accessed August 2001.

Enright, Michael J., and Rolf Weder, editors. Studies in Swiss Competitive Advantage. Bern and New York: P. Lang, 1995.

New, Mitya. Switzerland Unwrapped: Exposing the Myths. London and New York: I.B. Tauris, 1997.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. World Factbook 2000. <>. Accessed August 2001.

U.S. Department of State. FY 2000 Country Commercial Guide: Switzerland. <>. Accessed January 2001.

Valentin Hadjiyski




Swiss franc (SwFr). One Swiss franc equals 100 centimes, or rappen. There are coins of 1, 5, 10, 20, and 50 centimes and 1, 2, and 5 francs, and notes of 10, 20, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000 francs.


Machinery, electronics, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, metals, watches agricultural products, textiles, and handicrafts.


Raw materials, machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals, agricultural products, textiles.


US$197 billion (1999 est.).


Exports: US$98.5 billion (1999 est.). Imports: US$99 billion (1999 est.).

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Swiss Confederation
Region: Europe
Population: 7,262,372
Language(s): German, French, Italian, Romansch
Literacy Rate: 99%
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 5.4%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 24,093
Libraries: 2,344
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 477,643
  Secondary: 559,924
  Higher: 148,024
Educational Enrollment Rate: Higher: 33%
Female Enrollment Rate: Higher: 25%

History & Background

Switzerland, located in the heart of Europe, is among the small nations of the world. It is 41,300 square kilometers and shares its borders and its three main languages with Germany, France, Italy, Austria, and Liechtenstein. The Helvetic Confederation, the Latin name for Switzerland, can be divided into three natural regions: the Jura mountains in the northwest, the central lowlands between the Lake of Constance and Lake of Geneva, and the Alps in the south and east. Although the Alps and the Jura Mountains cover more than half of Switzerland, most of the Swiss people live between the two mountain ranges. The estimated population in 1998 was 7,374,000, including foreign workers, who made up almost 19 percent of the population. In the central lowlands are most of Switzerland's industries and its richest farmlands. Switzerland's capital city, Bern, and its largest city, Zurich, are located in this area. The population, with a density of 179 people per square kilometer is 68 percent urban and 32 percent rural.

The population is divided between three major and one minor language groups. According to the 1990 census of the resident population, 63.7 percent spoke German, 19.2 percent French, 7.6 percent Italian, 0.6 percent Romansch, and 8.9 percent other languages. German, French, and Italian are deemed official languages, whereas Romansch, which is spoken by less than 1 percent of the population in the Grisons, is considered a national language. With regard to religion, in 1990 some 46.1 percent of the population were Roman Catholics, 40 percent were Protestants, 5 percent belonged to other denominations, and 8.9 percent were "nonreligious."

Switzerland has limited natural resources, but it is a very affluent industrial nation. Using imported raw materials, the Swiss manufacture high-quality goods including electrical equipment, machine tools, and watches. They also produce chemicals, drugs, chocolate, cheese, and other diary products.

The Swiss have a long tradition of freedom. The Swiss Confederation was created over 700 years ago in what is now central Switzerland. The original defensive alliance formed in 1291 of the three mountain cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden, gradually increased to 13 by 1513. Similar to other parts of central Europe, education started in church schools, which were primarily dedicated to training the clergy. It was not until the late Middle Ages that schools for reading and writing for more practical purposes were established in some towns. During the Reformation and Counter-Reformation era education was largely the privilege of the upper classes of society. As part of the new democratic system, elementary schools were established at the end of the eighteenth century. These schools provided education for a much broader cross-section of the population.

Education has played a very important role in the Swiss Confederation. The Swiss Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746-1827) developed many of the basic pedagogical approaches and teacher training principles that are used in many western countries of the world. Pestalozzi's ideas spread as far as the United States by the 1860s, and his theories influenced Friedrich Froebel, the German founder of the first kindergartens, as well as many other educators and philosophers. A report on Popular Education in France from 1861 that also analyzed Popular Education in Switzerland commented on the quality of Swiss schools.

The principle of direct democracy is an important part of Swiss democracy and firmly rooted in the federal constitution. The electorate frequently votes, either to elect representatives or to vote on initiatives or referendums. Decentralization and direct democracy are also an important part of the education system. Education has remained primarily the responsibility of the cantons (states) and municipalities. Switzerland is made up of 26 cantons, which enjoy a considerable degree of autonomy. The cantons are further divided into communes or municipalities, approximately 3,000 in all.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

Two essential hallmarks of the Swiss education system are federalism and pragmatism. Federalism delegates most education responsibilities to the cantons and municipalities. Except for narrow areas the cantons are responsible for compulsory education. The constitution stipulates that the cantons shall exercise all rights, which are not expressly delegated to the federal government. The responsibility for "adequate" primary education is delegated to the cantons. The constitution mandates for state education to be available to children of all creeds without any restrictions with respect to freedom of conscience or belief. Attendance at primary school is compulsory and free of charge. Each canton has its own legislation concerning education. The definitions of the goals of education are, therefore, not the same throughout Switzerland.

Pragmatism takes the form of various agreements for educational cooperation and coordination. An important legal instrument for coordinating the education system is the "Agreement on the Coordination of Education" known as the Concordat, which was drawn up by the cantons in 1970. Its mission is to harmonize cantonal legislation on education. Twenty-five cantons have signed this agreement in order to coordinate their legislation on education with respect to compulsory schooling, duration of compulsory school attendance, and the school calendar. Because of the extremely fragmented Swiss educational system and the system of direct democracy in Switzerland it has taken over 15 years to adopt the existing system. In addition, important agreements have been signed between the cantons concerning intercantonal recognition of qualifications, university funding, admission to educational institutions in other cantons, and funding for communal institutions.

The 1970 Concordat and subsequent agreements have set out the following requirements for compulsory education: (1) the age for entry to compulsory education at six, (2) the duration of compulsory education for at least nine years, and (3) the period of schooling between the start of education and sitting for the matura, or school-leaving certificate (which allows a student to enter the university) at least 12 years.

Responsibility for compulsory and higher education is relatively complex in Switzerland because of the federal system and distribution of power between the federal government and the cantons. Although there is no federal or national Ministry of Education, the Federal government has a limited, but important role in harmonizing education in Switzerland. The Confederation is responsible for supervising "a sufficient level of primary education," which is compulsory, free and for which the cantons are responsible. A second responsibility is to provide legislation concerning vocational training for industry, trade, commerce, agriculture, and domestic service. The federation also regulates the teaching of physical education. In the area of higher education, the central government controls the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, the Swiss Pedagogical Institutes for vocational training (Berne, Lausanne, Lugano) and the Federal College of Physical Education in Macolin. It also regulates admission to medical studies and to the Federal Institutes of Technology. Through these regulations the Confederation legitimizes the requirements for the matura.

In addition, the central government subsidizes the cantonal universities, and scientific research. Grants from the federal government help support the poorer cantons and provide grants for Swiss schools abroad. Through legislation the federal government also promotes the education and integration of handicapped children and adolescents.

In special circumstances the Swiss parliament may temporarily delegate responsibility to the Confederation in order to fulfill important tasks of national importance such as programs for nonuniversity higher education, university exchanges, or Swiss participation in European research and training programs. In most cases where legislative powers are held by the Confederation, the Federal Assembly passes the necessary laws and delegates the corresponding executive powers to the cantons or, in rare cases, to private bodies. The cantons usually delegate the responsibility for setting up and maintaining certain types of schools, including kindergartens and compulsory schools to the municipalities.

The cantonal government and its Department of Education, along with the Education Council in certain cantons, are responsible for organizing and running the cantonal education system. The "cantonal minister," who is the head of the education department, is elected by the people and is reelected every four or five years. Almost all cantons set up education services, including cantonal offices for statistics, research, and documentation during the 1960s. Their goal is to ensure the proper functioning of compulsory education and to help in technical matters, including school improvement and curriculum planning.

One of the major problems with the Swiss educational system is its lack of coherence. Until World War II, the cantonal education systems were very fragmented, in spite of the fact that as early as 1897 the heads of the cantonal departments of education set up a Conference with the aim of exchanging information and coordinating the education system at a national level. From the 1960s onward the need for more coordinated educational policy produced new and restructured organizations, often in collaboration with the Confederation.

The Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education (EDK/CDIP) was restructured and provided with a secretariat and four regional organizations. These four regional Conferences included French-speaking Switzerland and the Ticino, northwest Switzerland, central Switzerland, and eastern Switzerland. Language, geography, and history have played an important part in these regional Conferences. Each region coordinates the publication of common curricula, educational material, and joint running of educational institutions, as well as agreements on recognition of qualifications and admission to schools and colleges.

The fragmented nature of the Swiss educational system makes it difficult to evaluate. In reality there are 26 slightly different educational systems in this small country. The responsibilities of the Confederation in education are as follows:

  • It supervises the cantons, which are responsible for providing "a sufficient level of primary education" that is compulsory and free.
  • It is responsible for legislation with respect to vocational training for industry, trade, commerce, and agriculture.
  • It regulates the teaching of physical science.
  • It is responsible for the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne, the Swiss Pedagogical Institutes in Berne, Lausanne, and Lugano, and the Federal College of Physical Education in Macolin.
  • It regulates admission to medical school as well as the Institutes of Technology and through regulations specifies the requirements for admission to higher education (by specifying requirements for the school-leaving diploma).
  • It subsidizes the cantonal universities, scientific research, and Swiss schools abroad.
  • It promotes the education and integration of exceptional children and adolescents through legislation with respect to disability insurance.

Globalization and the need to be part of a common Europe have produced significant changes in the Swiss education system, particularly at the higher secondary and nonuniversity levels of higher education. Although Switzerland is not a member of the European Community, in order to compete in a global society the confederation coordinated many changes at the end of the twentieth century and beginning of the new millennium in order to bring its educational system in line with most European countries. Many of these changes are still in the process of implementation at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

Educational SystemOverview

The structure of the educational system starts with preschool education. It is called kindergarten in German-speaking Switzerland, école enfantine in the French-speaking area, and scuola dell'infanzia in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino. Preschool was first introduced in the first half of the nineteenth century in a few large cities, in Geneva in 1826 and Zurich in 1845. Since that time it has spread to all the cantons.

Preschool is followed by compulsory education, comprising the primary and first level of secondary school. These differ widely in structure throughout Switzerland, although there are moves toward intercantonal coordination. In general the Swiss educational system reflects the continental system. The period of primary education varies by canton. In general it lasts six years, but in some cases only four years (like the Grundschule in Germany), or five (like the scola elementare in Italy). This shorter period in primary school is offset by a longer period at the next stage of secondary school. For example, in Ticino, the Italian-speaking canton, primary education lasts five years and is followed by a single scola media lasting four years. In French-speaking Valais, on the other hand, primary school lasts six years and secondary education, considered as an orientation cycle, is only three years.

There is a single teacher per class, not only in primary schools, but also in some first cycle secondary schools. However, in practice other teachers are involved, particularly for various types of remedial reading and optional arts and technology subjects. There is a particularly marked differentiation of methods in the case of children with learning difficultiesroughly five percent of a particular age groupwho are taught in smaller classes.

During compulsory education, children are taught in their mother tongue, French, Italian, or German, depending upon the canton. In bilingual cantons, schools follow the predominant language of the municipality or commune. In German-speaking Switzerland, this presents a special problem because dialect rather than Standard German is spoken. In Switzerland, dialect usage is prevalent in all parts of German Switzerland. The widely used term Schwyzertütch, or Swiss German, represents not a single language but a wide range of local and regional dialects. Although quite different in the various Swiss German regions, most of the dialects are mutually comprehensible without difficulty. Unlike the Swiss German majority, French and Italian Swiss are not dialect-speakers.

Virtually all German Swiss children must learn High German in school, starting in the early primary grades. Most German Swiss become bilingual between dialect and standard German during the first few years of elementary schooling. School is the institution where more High German is spoken than anywhere else. It is the responsibility of the schools to teach High German to children who have only a very vague and passive knowledge of Standard German when they start school. During the first year at school, nothing but dialect is spoken. In the second year, the teacher changes gradually from High German for certain subjects, whereas the texts for reading are in High German from the very beginning. This imposes high demands upon German-speaking Swiss children, for they have to learn to read, write, and use a relatively unknown language all at once. Later on, the language spoken during the actual lessons is mainly High German.

There is a need to learn additional languages because Switzerland is a multilingual society and a small country in the heart of Europe. The requirement that a second language be taught from the fourth grade onwards (usually German in the French-speaking cantons and French in Ticino and the German-speaking cantons) makes additional demands on primary schools. In the canton of Zurich, at the end of 2000, the education director, responding to the pressure from pupils and their parents, changed the first foreign language to English with French only learned in later grades. The movement toward English as the first foreign tongue to be learned in the schools in German-speaking cantons has generated concern in French Switzerland, which encompasses less than one-fifth of the Swiss population.

Most cantons provide several types of education at the lower secondary level, with several different sections with two or three different categories of requirements. Other cantons provide more crossover points from one track to another. The first level of secondary school has resulted in a complex and varied system among the cantons, which is, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, undergoing attempts toward more standardization between cantons.

The postsecondary or upper secondary level consists of Maturitätsschulen, or general education schools, which are attended by 17-20 percent of a student group. Teacher training colleges are attended by less than three percent of the appropriate age group. Schools offering a technical diploma enroll about four percent of students. The dual system of schooling and apprenticeship enrolls almost 70 percent of the 16-19 year olds. The remainder of the group attends technical high schools or other programs.

One of the most marked features of postsecondary education in Switzerland is the contrast between two highly specific tracks. The larger of these is the system of apprenticeship known as the dual system. Students go to a vocational school for approximately two days a week, with the rest of the time spent in on-the-job training. This cycle of upper secondary education is usually started at the age or 16 or 17. Approximately 70 percent of students opt for the apprenticeship system and over 90 percent of them are awarded a certificate of proficiency.

The federal law on vocational training applies to 260 professions in industry, trades, and commerce. A separate law covers the fields of agriculture and forestry. Apprenticeships tend to last for three or four years, depending on the field. The less academically oriented students may go into elementary vocational training, which lasts only one or two years. Only one percent of the apprentices choose this option. At the end of elementary vocational education successful students are awarded an official certificate instead of the federal diploma (CFC).

The gymnasium provides an academic general education for those students who plan to attend university. It is an elite and selective publicly funded school. The number of those taking the matura or maturité exam has increased in recent years. Between 1986 and 1998 the percentage awarded this certificate almost doubled to 19 percent.

A third track is also emerging in Switzerland between the gymnasium and apprenticeship dual education system. A series of full-time vocational training programs provide education for social workers, primary school teachers, and for a large number of middle-ranking business and technical careers. Usually these schools provide an intermediate diploma rather than the maturité certificate. They comprised about 11 percent of the 1998 graduates.

The tertiary level of education is comprised of university, teacher training schools for postprimary students, and higher vocational schools and apprenticeship programs. There are 11 traditional university level institutions in Switzerland. Four cantonal universities (in Basle, Zurich, Berne, and St. Gallen), the Swiss Institute for Further Training in Upper Secondary Education in Lucerne, and the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich are in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. German Switzerland encompasses three-quarters of the population and 20 cantons. The other cantonal universities (Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg, the latter offering courses in French and German) and the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne are located in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, which encompasses around 19 percent of the population. Ticino, the only Italian-speaking canton that comprises eight percent of the Swiss population, also has its own university. It is the newest of the Swiss universities only coming into existence in the mid-1990s. The distribution of universities illustrates the ability of the Swiss to accommodate, and over-represent the minority language groups at the university level.

In addition to universities, there are also local specialized institutions of higher learning that do not require the federal matura certificate for entrance. These applied institutions include the areas of engineering, administration and commerce, the hotel trade and tourism, health care, counseling and applied psychology, social work, media, communications and information technology, and arts and design. In order to enter these schools one must have a Berufsmatura, which is earned with a year of intensive study after the apprenticeship or appropriate upper secondary school.

The Fachhochschulen, or nonuniversity institutes of higher learning, stress a high level of applied skills. They are a relatively new part of the higher education system in Switzerland. Fachhochschulen are meant to fill the gap in the new postindustrial society for highly skilled individuals without a university education. Most of the institutions are cantonal or regional in nature. Fachhochschulen are distributed throughout Swiss society. By the beginning of the twenty-first century there were 20 in French-speaking Switzerland, and five in the Ticino. In German-speaking Switzerland, where they predominate, five were located in central Switzerland, nine in eastern Switzerland, and five in northwest Switzerland. More than 20 were located in the two most populous German-speaking cantons of Zurich and Bern. Nonuniversity higher education is a very important part of the Swiss education system. For example, the cantonal institutes of technology produce three times more engineers than the two Federal Institutes of Technology.

Preprimary & Primary Education

In all cantons children have the right to a preschool education for at least one year. In some cantons two years of preschool education are financed. Preschool education is not compulsory; however, it is almost universally attended. An average of 99 percent of all children throughout Switzerland receive preprimary education during the year before they start compulsory education, and 63 percent attend for two years. In Switzerland the cantons and/or municipalities are responsible for organizing and funding preprimary education. Kindergarten is generally housed in a separate building from the primary grades.

In preprimary education, although the cantons follow slightly different curriculums, the aim is to promote social skills and to acquire the skills needed for primary school. Another important goal is to integrate foreign mother-tongue children and handicapped children into the school system and to identify children with learning problems. In Geneva, for example, almost half of the children do not speak French. In German Switzerland where dialect is spoken, non-German dialect speakers receive special instruction in the Swiss dialect. In the 1994/95 academic school year 23 percent of those attending kindergarten were of foreign mother tongue. A new curriculum came into effect during the 1994/95 school year for preprimary teachers in all the French-speaking cantons. In the German-speaking cantons, kindergarten teachers tend to follow the curriculum set by their professional associations.

In the German-speaking part of Switzerland, children attend kindergarten for approximately two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. They return home for lunch between the two sessions. In the Ticino, however, kindergarten usually stays open from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. The organization of the school year is the same as primary education.

Kindergarten classes have between 17 and 19 children. In German- and Italian-speaking Switzerland, children stay in the same group for the duration of their preschool education. In contrast, in some of the French-speaking cantons, the teacher changes from year to year.

According to the Agreement on the Coordination of Education, children who have reached the age of six by June 30th are eligible for compulsory education. Each canton has its own laws regarding education, which defines the way in which compulsory education is organized. In 20 Swiss cantons primary education lasts six years, in four cantons for five years, and in two cantons for four years.

Cantonal authorities fix the curriculum. While a few regions have established common curricula, ultimately the canton is responsible for what is taught in separate subjects. With the exception of mathematics, foreign languages and some aspects of mother-tongue language classes, the teachers enjoy considerable freedom in deciding the content of the syllabus that governs the various subjects. There is little specialization in primary school and generally the teachers teach all the subjects. The only exception is specialized teachers in some schools in physical education and art.

The primary school curriculum stresses the teaching of the mother tongue as well as the fundamentals of science and mathematics. A second language is also introduced, usually in the fourth grade. In French-speaking Switzerland, German is generally learned and in German-speaking Switzerland, French or in some cantons English. Virtually all Swiss children attend primary school. In Switzerland in the 1994/95 school year there were 6,400 primary schools that enrolled 437,400 pupils. Of these pupils 18.7 percent were of foreign mother tongue.

The average class size in primary schools in 1994/95 was between 15 and 20. Most schools include children only at one level, but in remote areas one class may include different grades in one class. In general, children are not put in different tracks in primary school. Pupils receive a report card two or three times a year in which grades are given for each subject. The average grades at the end of the school year are used to determine whether the pupil should go into a higher class. Many cantons do not grade students in the first few years of primary school, but rather depend on assessment meetings and periodic reports. In all cantons there are regulations allowing for pupils to repeat a year. If after repeating a year, a student still experiences difficulty, parents in collaboration with the teacher and other school authorities decide whether to transfer the child to a special class. The trend is to integrate slower children into normal classes during primary school.

Throughout Switzerland, the first year at primary school comprises on the average approximately four hours of teaching per day. This increases to slightly over five hours per day in the final year at primary school. School is held in the morning and afternoon. Some cantons have school on Saturday mornings and one afternoon during the week free. Usually the children go home for lunch, however, there has been a trend towards children staying at school for the lunch pause, especially in urban areas. Depending on the canton, the school year comprises between 35.5 and 40 weeks.

Secondary Education

Swiss secondary education is divided into a lower secondary and an upper secondary branch. Lower secondary education is defined as the part of compulsory education immediately following primary schooling, usually grades seven to nine. Depending on the length of primary education (four, five, or six years), lower secondary education consists of three to five years of schooling.

Most cantons provide several types of education at the lower secondary level. There are often two or three different sections with very different requirements. Lower secondary school is compulsory and free. The sections with basic requirements, which have various names throughout Switzerland, prepare the pupils for basic vocational training. About one-third of the pupils in the same age group will be in these sections, with more boys then girls.

The sections with higher requirements contain about two-thirds of the pupils in lower secondary education. In most cantons these are divided into two types: Sekundarschule with general requirements and Progymnasium with advanced requirements. Lower secondary school lasts three, four, or five years depending on the canton. Although there has been some experimentation with comprehensive schools, they have not survived the experimental phrase with the exception of the prespecialization classes in the canton of Geneva, the Ticino, and Valais. Some cantons have managed to develop some characteristics of comprehensive schools by improving the ability to change tracks and by reducing the number of tracks. The concept of a unified system of compulsory education, such as in the United States, has not been accepted in the Swiss school system.

Elementary tracks (known as practical, modern, or prevocational) prepare pupils for entry into vocational education. Tracks with broader requirements (general, science, modern languages, classics) prepare for Progymnasium, or more advanced training and school-leaving certificate schools. In some cantons, the lower division in school-leaving certificate schools is integrated into lower secondary education as a distinct track.

The mother-tongue language is taught in all sections of general secondary education, along with mathematics, a second national language, natural science, geography, history, civics, history, art, and physical education. In the sections with basic requirements, emphasis is also placed on mechanical and industrial arts; in the sections with higher requirements, there might be a third language (mainly English), bookkeeping, computer skills, or technical drawing. In the Progymnasium section more advanced subjects are introduced. The number of hours of school varies from one canton to another, but pupils generally have between 30 and 35 lessons per week. In principle, the choice of the school curriculum and choice of materials is fixed at the cantonal level, but the schools and teaching staff have a certain degree of freedom of choice in these matters.

Continuous assessment throughout the year is basically the responsibility of the teacher. Switzerland does not have a general examination at the end of lower secondary school. In some cantons pupils can take a written and oral examination in their main subjects in order to get a certificate; in other cantons this is not the case.

The private schools that include the compulsory period and enroll Swiss students, follow the same basic curriculum and use of teaching materials of the canton in which they are located. Others that primarily enroll non-Swiss, have complete freedom in establishing their curriculum. About 9 percent of all students below the university level are enrolled in private schools. About twothirds of these schools receive some public funds.

Public schools, being both compulsory and yet offering guidance for educational and occupational choices, are faced with conflicting aims. On the one hand, teachers in a democratic society need to allow pupils to make choices, which may be changed several years later; on the other hand, their task is to prepare them for upper secondary education, primarily for the dual system of education. This continues to be a challenge for secondary education in Switzerland.

Academic High Schools: In Switzerland, upper secondary school, which prepares students for university level work, takes place in separate schools called gymnasium. The gymnasium lasts between four and five years. At the end of the gymnasium, one must pass the matura, or school-leaving certificate in order to enter university or the two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology. The Swiss maturity diplomas are officially recognized both by the Confederation and the cantons, thus setting a comparable standard for the access to universities. This is the reason that there has thus far been no need for additional entrance examinations to the universities and the two federal institutes of technology.

The Swiss Maturity regulations were revised in 1995. They are regulated both by the Confederation at the federal level and the cantons. The 1995 regulations abolished the previous system of five predetermined types of gymnasium education or tracks recognized in Switzerland. Previously there were five types of school-leaving certificates: type A: classics (Latin and Greek), type B: modern languages and Latin, type C: mathematics and natural sciences, type D: modern languages, and type E: economics. The 1995 regulation allowed for more flexibility and a greater range of subjects. There is also an increased emphasis on economy and law and Italian as a third national language. In addition to examinations in nine subjects, the students must write a comprehensive Baccalaureate paper or maturity thesis. This is similar to the requirement set by the International Baccalaureate, which is offered in some high schools in the United States. The first updated maturity diplomas were awarded in 1999. These new regulations have made the Swiss system comparable to most other European forms of school leaving-certificates.

According to the new law the basic subjects are: first language; a second national language; a third language, which can be either English or a classical language; mathematics, science, including as compulsory subjects biology, chemistry, and physics; humanities, including as compulsory subjects history and geography, as well as elementary economics and law; visual arts and/or music. The specific option is chosen out of eight subjects and the additional option out of 13. For the basic subjects the proportion of teaching allocated to each area is as follows: languages 30-40 percent; mathematics and science 20-30 percent; humanities 10-20 percent; arts 5-10 percent; and 15-25 percent to other optional subjects.

Pupils' work is subject to continual assessment and students are promoted into a higher class on the basis of the results they obtain throughout the year. At the end of the gymnasium, the Federal School-leaving certificate Matura Commission supervises examinations. Special federal examinations are held for young people and adults who have studied for their certificates at private schools, at evening classes, or through correspondence courses. For the subjects in which an examination is taken, a grade is awarded on the basis of results obtained during the final year and results obtained in the examination, each factor being of equal weight. For the other subjects, the final grade is awarded on the basis of the results obtained during the final school year, which is based on examinations both written and oral. Under the new law, all students must learn basic English as part of their gymnasium studies.

Gymnasium education in Switzerland continues to carry a great deal of prestige. It is an elite and selective publicly funded preparatory school. In 1998, about 18 percent of all 19-year-olds passed the maturity diploma. Slightly more women (18.7 percent) than men (16.5 percent) successfully completed the matura. There has been a significant increase in the percentage of young women obtaining the school-leaving certificate, from 30.6 percent in 1970 to 48.6 percent in 1980 to over half in 1998.

Between 1980 and 1998, the percentage of students awarded the school-leaving diploma increased from 11 percent to 18. In French and Italian-speaking Switzerland the percentage completing the matura is higher (almost 24 percent) than in German-speaking Switzerland (15 percent). This is related to earlier school reforms and a more equalitarian school system in French and Italian Switzerland. The urban German-speaking cantons of Basel, Zurich, and Schaffhausen are also above the Swiss average. Rural, Catholic inner Switzerland, on the other hand, has the lowest percentage (approximately 12 percent) of students awarded the maturity diploma.

Gymnasiums have a long tradition going back to the Middle Ages. The recent 1995 change in standards and objectives of these schools are still based on nineteenth century humanist and scientific ideals, which have been partially brought up to date by the demands of modern society. Gymnasiums have very high standards and hold almost a complete monopoly on access to the university. Although all cantons have gymnasiums, only eight cantons have a university. Cantons, without universities have a particular interest in maintaining national matura standards in order to ensure that their students can gain access to higher education.

Technical High Schools: Before and immediately after the Second World War some cantons and municipalities established upper secondary schools, which offered a general education but whose requirements were lower than the gymnasium. They were called technical high schools, general high schools, paramedical schools, and schools of tourism. Their successful students went to work in health care, kindergartens, tourism, transport and social service jobs. At the time there was no uniformity between these schools with regard to curriculum, structure, or length of courses after compulsory education. In 1987, after more than 15 years of discussion, an agreement was reached between the cantons concerning curriculum and other requirements. Two proposals: "Guidelines for the recognition of diplomas" and "curriculum framework for technical high schools," were adopted in 1987 by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education. The high school courses of two or three year's duration are recognized by all the cantons as long as the technical high schools adopt the approved curriculum and framework developed by the Commission for Technical High Schools.

The technical high schools have helped to bridge the gap that existed in the type of education offered at the upper secondary level. These schools offer an opportunity to a broader spectrum of the student population to complete their general education at a higher level and an opportunity to learn about future professional activities. Students can do this without committing themselves to an apprenticeship program. Technical high schools require their students to acquire a general training and education, which will enable them to go on to higher, nonuniversity training in fields such as teaching, health care, social work, administration, and the arts.

The curriculum at technical high schools encompasses a common core of general subjects and a choice of technical subjects. The general studies include mother-tongue language, other languages including at least one other national language, mathematics, science, humanities, art, and movement. The technical options depend on the field of study and include, for example, paramedical studies, social work, or business administration. The guidelines set forth by the Swiss Conference of Cantonal Directors of Education apply to all Swiss cantons. The regulations concerning assessment of pupils in lower secondary education also apply to technical high schools. Under the terms of the new law issued in 1995, a written examination, which may be accompanied by an oral examination, must be taken in five out of six subjects. In addition there are examinations in their technical subjects. If students fulfill all the requirements for the diploma for the technical high schools, they are recognized by all the cantons.

Teacher-Training Colleges: Most Swiss cantons carry out the training of preschool teachers in upper secondary school. Cantons offer two types of training for primary school teachers: teacher training colleges (upper secondary level) and university after secondary education in a gymnasium. Basic training for gymnasium teachers is given at the universities and the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. In some cantons, reforms since the 1980s have resulted in changing from teachers' training colleges to studies at universities following the matura examination, although most cantons still prefer the teachers' training system.

The training takes five years, or three years following the matura. The primary school teachers' examination provides access to the teaching profession or (with certain limitations) to studies at the university. Teacher candidates for lower secondary levels attend a university or university institute for seven or eight semesters. The training corresponds to language regions (French, German, or Italian), and there is a trend toward a mutual recognition of the diplomas. The teacher candidates specialize in either mathematics and natural sciences or languages and history. Teachers at the upper secondary level receive specialized training at a university as well as specialized professional education.

There are currently 100 institutions that train teachers for compulsory education, technical high schools, and other colleges of further education. In Switzerland teacher training of primary teachers has been the subject of serious discussion in almost all cantons.

Teachers of vocational education have different qualifications from those teaching compulsory education and the gymnasium. The majority of teachers at technical colleges are employed by the cantons. The teaching staff of technical colleges is generally trained at the Swiss Pedagogical Institute for Vocational Training, which is a federal institution. Those teaching general subjects must already possess a teaching diploma for primary or secondary education. The teachers of technical subjects must possess an engineering diploma or a higher technical diploma. For teaching at commercial colleges, a university degree is required. In the workplace, individuals must have several years of experience in their trade and have taken a special course for training apprentices, organized by the professional associations or the cantons, in order to supervise apprentices.

Vocational Training: The comparatively low level of youth unemployment in Switzerland has been attributed to the dual apprenticeship system. The dual system has existed in Switzerland for over a century and is well developed as a cooperative effort between the cantons, federal authorities, and professional organizations. The majority of Swiss youth (approximately 70 percent) continue their education after compulsory schooling in vocational education. The dual system of vocational education is comprised of a practical course in a private or public company and parallel attendance at a vocational training school, which provides basic theoretical knowledge, general subjects, and physical education. Students go to school for one to one and a half days per week and engage in an apprenticeship for the rest of the week. The vocational school education complements the practical vocational experience gained on the job. In addition, basic skills are taught by supplementary introductory courses, which are organized by the professional association. Therefore, vocational education is in reality a threefold system.

The trainee signs a contract with a company, which must be approved by the cantonal vocational training authorities. The scope of vocational training courses, the subjects taught, and number of lessons is fixed for each profession in close collaboration with the corresponding professional association within the framework of a program drawn up by the Federal Office for Industry and Labor (BIGA/OFIAMT). The federal law on vocational training applies to about 260 professions in industry, trades, commerce, and domestic service.

Young people who go into basic vocational training do not pay any college fees. Apprentices who are trained within the framework of the dual system are paid a monthly salary, which ranges from a few hundred Swiss francs to over a thousand (roughly $150-$700 a month), depending on the branch they are in, the size of the firm, and how many years of training they have already completed.

After two to four years, the apprentices take a final examination. If they are successful, they are awarded a federal diploma (CFC), which is recognized all over the country. The final examinations comprise a practical part and a theoretical part. The examinations are normally organized by the cantonal authorities and carried out in collaboration with consultants from industry. As far as possible the examinations are standardized for an entire linguistic region (French, German, or Italian). An upper secondary vocational diploma does not normally qualify students for admission to university, but it does allow them to enter further vocational training in the nonacademic branch of tertiary education.

Higher Education

University Education: Swiss higher education before 1800 developed along much the same lines as that of Central Europe. Education was the task of the monasteries. The first university in Switzerland was founded in Basle in 1460. Since that time there has seen a steady increase in universities and university education in Switzerland. There are 12 state-run university institutions in Switzerland. Switzerland ranks among the countries having the highest university density, with one university for every 600,000 inhabitants. The cantonal universities are situated in Basle, Zurich, Berne, St. Gallen, Lucerne, Lausanne, Geneva, Neuchâtel, and Fribourg. In 1996 the canton of Ticino, with only four percent of the population and the only Italian-speaking canton, opened a university of its own. Universities are disproportionately distributed in the language minority cantons. In addition to the 12 universities, there are two federal institutes of technology in Zurich and Lausanne.

Although each university has its own characteristics, they are basically similar in structure. They are divided into departments or faculties, including law, economics and social science, art, natural science, and medicine. Two of the smaller universities, Fribourg and Lausanne, offer only the basic courses in medicine. St. Gallen specializes in economics, social science, and law. Lucerne, located in a Catholic canton, offers Catholic theology and philosophy, as well as law and the arts. The Italian-speaking university offers courses in architecture, social science, and arts. The two Federal Institutes of Technology produce highly qualified engineers, architects, and natural scientists. Unlike the United States, there are no private universities in the Swiss Confederation.

Each university is administered under the cantonal Department of Education. A considerable amount of autonomy is allowed under cantonal law. The two institutes of technology are exclusively maintained by the Confederation, with their autonomy assured by the Federal Act of 1993. In order to aid the cantonal universities, the "Federal Act concerning the financial aid to the universities" was implemented in 1968, amended several times and completely revised in 1999. The Federal Act of 1999, which extends until 2008, constitutes the legal basis for the federal subsidies to university cantons.

In order to offset the high costs associated with maintaining a university, the Intercantonal Agreement of 1981 initiated an agreement for all cantons, both those responsible for university and nonuniversity cantons to share costs proportionally to the number of their own students in the cantonal universities. In return for this intercantonal equalization of the financial burdens, the cantonal universities grant equal access to students from all contributing cantons. The partnership between cantons and the Confederation is a hallmark of Swiss federalism and education policy.

Individuals who want to enroll at a Swiss university must earn a state-recognized Swiss matriculation certificate (matura) or a foreign school-leaving certificate of equivalent value. All Swiss university level institutions have the same basic requirements. The Swiss maturity diplomas are officially recognized both by the Confederation and the cantons, thereby setting a comparable standard for access to Swiss universities.

Studies at Swiss universities grant basic and postgraduate degrees. Some differences exist between the various universities with respect to the length of study, the structure of the courses, and the required subjects. Since 1990 there have been several interdepartmental agreements to harmonize the study courses in specific subjects (such as law, engineering, sociology, German literature, etc.). At this writing in 2001, the Swiss universities are in the process of introducing the European credit transfer system (ECTS). The basic classes, which are of four years duration (eight semesters) lead to a first academic degree, a licentiate, which is roughly equivalent to a master's degree (M.A. or M.S.) or diploma. The completion of this degree allows further specialization and research in the chosen field leading up to a doctorate or to other specializations in professional schools or other postgraduate studies. Swiss universities do not grant Bachelor's degrees. At the beginning of the new millennium, changes toward a universal degree program are under discussion in order to comply with the American and British traditions and the Declarations of Sorbonne and of Bologna of 1998/99.

In the last decades of the twentieth century the two Federal Institutes of Technology set up continuing education departments that organize postgraduate courses. In Switzerland, continuing education is aimed at working university graduates. The courses range from a few days to a few semesters duration. Private institutions also offer continuing education, primarily in the area of business administration.

There has been a marked increase in the number of students studying at Swiss universities since the 1980s. From 1980-2000 there has been a 62 percent increase in student numbers, reaching almost 96,000 in the 1999-2000 academic year. About one-fifth of the corresponding age group of 20- to 24-year-olds attends university. By 2003 the university student body is expected to rise by 20 percent. Switzerland has a particularly high percentage of foreign students, amounting to almost one-fifth of the student population. Female students account for 45 percent of the total enrollment. There is a higher percentage of both foreigners and females at the Italian and the French-speaking universities than at German-speaking universities in Switzerland.

During 1990-2000 the number of students studying humanities, social sciences, and engineering increased. With the growing numbers of students, the institutions are becoming increasingly crowded. Medical students and students from other faculties such as psychology have to take a national aptitude test and may have to accept transfers to a Swiss university other than their first choice. So far all applicants who have complied with university entrance requirements have been granted entry to a university. If numbers continue to increase at their present rate, this situation may change in the future. The teaching staff has generally not kept up with increasing student numbers, which poses another problem at Swiss universities.

Fachhochschulen/Hautes Écoles Spécialisées (Technical Colleges): In order to face new challenges related to an increasingly technological society, Switzerland created the Fachhochschulen (FH)/Hautes écoles spécialisées (HES) (Universities of Applied Sciences) in the mid-1990s. The new FH/HES system shares a similar level with the traditional scientific universities; however, it is more applied and accepts individuals who have completed a higher vocational education. The curriculum and research are oriented toward practical application rather than pure research. Under limited conditions students may transfer from the Swiss Universities of Applied Sciences to traditional university studies.

The new FH/HES-Universities have grown out of the former Colleges of Higher Education in engineering and business administration, agriculture and sports, fine arts, design, music, health care, social work, and teachertraining. Some of these came under federal auspices while others were cantonal in nature. They still tend to service regional rather than national labor markets. There are seven regional centers of Universities of Applied Sciences. It is still unclear whether a FH/HES education will have the same status and job mobility as that provided at the traditional universities.

The Fachhochschulen offer alternatives to the academic university education at the tertiary level. The degree courses are slightly shorter in length than the traditional universities. The first FH/HES degrees were awarded in 2000. They qualify professionals to work independently by providing them with both the necessary theoretical and academic job background with a practical training of the necessary skills. Admission to the FH/HES is granted to those holding a Berufsmatura, maturité professionnelle (Federal Vocational Maturity Certificate). The degree was introduced in 1993 jointly by the Confederation and the cantons. It is achieved after three years of apprenticeship followed by a one-year, full-time general education course. Admission is also available through a federal matura and at least one year's practical experience in industry. The diplomas from the FH/HES have been developed to be approximately equivalent to the Bachelor Degree. For example, the first degree in economics is equivalent to a Bachelor of Business Administration (in comparison with the first degree at the traditional universities which is comparable to a Master's degree or M.B.A.).

The Federal Act for the Universities of Applied Sciences was adopted by the Federal Parliament in 1995, and revised in 1999. The first stage, which lasts until 2003, concentrates on the fields that are supervised by the federal authorities: engineering, economics and management, and design. By the end of 2003 the four subjects listed above are expected to enroll approximately 20,000 students. In the 1999/2000 academic year slightly under 17,000 students were enrolled.

Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

Neither the Confederation nor the cantons has a unique educational administrative ministry that covers the entire educational system. At the federal level responsibility for education is shared by two different ministries: the Federal Department of the Interior and the Federal Department of Economics. The Federal Department of the Interior oversees the two Federal Institutes of Technology, subsidies for universities, grants, science and research, and physical education. Responsibility within the Interior ministry is assumed by the Science Agency (GWF/GRS) and the Federal Office for Education and Science (SHK/CUS). The Federal Department of Economics is in charge of vocational education. Within the Economics department is the Federal Office for Industry and Labor (BIGA/OFIAMT), which governs the vocational training sector. The Federal Office for Agriculture, also under the Federal Department of Economics is in charge of training in the field of agriculture.

The cantonal government and its Department of Education, along with the Education Council in some of the cantons, are responsible for organizing and running the cantonal education system. The cantonal minister, who is the head of the education department, is a popularly elected official who must run for office every four or five years. The size of the Department of Education is dependent on the size of the canton.

Funding for education is mostly a cantonal responsibility. Municipalities generally are responsible for buildings, equipment, teaching materials, and part of the staff salaries. The cantons are responsible for the major part of teacher's salaries. The source of funding for upper secondary schools and the universities comes primarily from the cantons. The Confederation is totally responsible for the two Federal Institutes of Technology including some research costs, and subsidizes the cantonal universities. The Confederation, cantons, and professional associations share the cost of vocational training.

In 1993 expenditures for the various levels of education were divided up as follows: municipalities 35 percent, cantons 53 percent, and the Confederation 12 percent. Resources are allocated on the basis of precise budgets rather than block or global grants. In 1997, almost 21.5 million SFr (approximately 14.5 million U.S. dollars) were spent on all levels of education by the Confederation, cantons, and municipalities. This equaled 18.3 percent of the national domestic budget. The Swiss education system is one of the best funded in the world, exceeded in 1999 only by those of the United States, Norway, and Denmark.

Although educational research has been carried out in Geneva since the late nineteenth century, the establishment of educational research in a systematic way throughout Switzerland did not take place until the mid-1960s. Because of the highly decentralized nature of Swiss education, most educational research takes place in a large number of decentralized institutions. Switzerland does not have a national educational research institute. As a consequence there are many microlevel studies, primarily in the fields of educational psychology and didactical studies during compulsory education. The cantons are the largest source of funding for educational research (47 percent of the total). The Confederation contributes 44 percent, primarily through the Swiss National Scientific Research Fund. The municipalities or communes (three percent) and the private sector (about six percent) play a less significant role.

Nonformal Education

In 2001 there does not yet exist a Swiss academic institution of distance learning or an Open University. However, a limited number of technology and distant learning classes were inaugurated in summer 2000. These are subsidized by the Confederation. Because of the small size of the country, the great density of universities, and the multilinguistic nature of Switzerland, it is unlikely that a distance learning university will become a reality in the near future. Switzerland is characterized by great diversity. It contains 26 cantons, each responsible for its own educational system and three major languages. There are, however, contacts to Open Universities of other European countries, which have led to the establishment of study centers, including the German Fern University Hagen in Brigue and the British Open University in Geneva.

In addition there are also a number of activities on the Internet that are related to education. The Center for Continuing Education at the Swiss Institute of Technology (ETH) provides up-to-date information about all the opportunities in continuing education. "EduETH," the education server of the ETH Zurich, provides a platform to exchange subject matter and information for secondary students. Most elementary and secondary schools in Switzerland have access to computers and the Internet.

Nonuniversity continuing education plays a very important role in Switzerland. Approximately 28,000 individuals were enrolled in a nonuniversity course in 1992/93, which is about a quarter of the population of the relevant age group. Many of these courses are offered at the FH/HES. Adult education is recognized as an integral part of the educational system in Switzerland and is promoted by the Confederation, the cantons, and the municipalities. However, it is financed and run mainly by private educational organizations. Public facilities such as courses for parents, adult education classes, and advanced education are supplemented by the services provided by club schools and groups allied to churches, trade unions, or political parties. The Swiss Association for Adult Education comprises approximately 30 coordinating and individual organizations. Because adult education is not a university subject, there is little research available on this topic. Available statistics indicate that approximately 40 percent of the working population is engaged in specialized professional adult education.

Teaching Profession

Swiss teachers are very well paid and hold a generally high status in the community. Teacher training and pay depend upon the level taught, with higher grades requiring longer periods of education and higher salaries.

Training for kindergarten teachers varies among the various cantons. In the majority of cantons, kindergarten teachers are trained for three or four years at teacher training institutions. In most cantons, primary school teachers also receive their training in teacher-training colleges. They are able to enroll after passing an entrance examination, as soon as they have completed compulsory education. In some cantons it is common for teachers to be trained at an institution attached to a university. In nonuniversity cantons, teachers are usually educated in separate teacher-training colleges. The diploma for primary school teachers is a specialized one and not the same as a university diploma. The teacher-training course normally lasts five years. Prospective teachers are assessed on their moral, psychological, and intellectual character as well as their knowledge and professional qualities.

There are basically two types of teachers in secondary school. Those who teach in the sections with basic requirements are, as a rule, primary school teachers who have had specific additional training. They are not specialized in any subjects. Those who teach in sections with higher requirements are specialized in one to three subjects. These teachers often possess a university education. This is reflected in the profile of gymnasium teachers who are specialists in one subject and university educated.


Switzerland's educational system is experiencing a period of rapid change at the beginning of the new millennium. Both internal and external factors have influenced educational reform. Globalization and a unified European Community, even though Switzerland is not a formal member, have put significant pressures on the educational system. In order to meet the growing demand for qualified workers and to work towards international recognition of Swiss diplomas, the nonuniversity higher education sector has been modified and reclassified as technical colleges. These include most teacher colleges. The dual system of higher education is comparable to similar institutions in Germany, Austria, and Holland, which include university level institutions and technical colleges. In Switzerland the different schools comprising the technical college level are still very fragmented. Transferability between the two sectors of higher education still remains problematic, with few clear paths between the FH/HES and the universities and Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology.

The number of students attending the gymnasium has increased significantly in the last 20 years. In the last decade women have made significant progress in completing the gymnasium and continuing to university studies. The ratio of maturity graduates is considerably higher in the areas of the Suisse romande (French and Italian Switzerland), where children are tracked later than in German-speaking Switzerland. In contrast, children of foreign workers and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to complete higher secondary educations or to go on to higher education. There is also significant disparity between the educational systems of the mountain regions and those of urbanized Switzerland. Future educational reform needs to be directed toward questions of equity in the educational system.

Education in Switzerland continues to be very decentralized and fragmented, although important strides have been taken toward reducing the disparities between the cantonal educational systems. Coordination measures, such as the introduction of standards for middle schools or maturity certificates, and the development of less elitist forms of higher education, take years to institute. As a whole, Switzerland has a very good educational system; however, free transfer from canton to canton is impeded by the 26 different cantonal educational systems and the lack of common educational standards.


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Bierhoff, Helvia and S. J. Prais, From School to Productive Work. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1997.

Educational Research and Development in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Paris: Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, 1995.

Garke, Esther. Swiss Higher Education. Federal Office for Education and Science. May 2000. Available from

Hanhart, Siegried and Sandra Bossio. "Costs and Benefits of Dual Apprenticeship: Lessons from the Swiss System." International Labour Review 137. (1998): 483-500.

Heidenheimer, Arnold J. Disparate Ladders: Why School and University Policies Differ in Germany, Japan and Switzerland. New Bruinswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 1997.

Helga, Gunther. Consensus Democracy? Swiss Education Policy between Federalism and Subsidiarity. New York: Peter Lang, 1999.

Sauthier, Rodger. Secondary Education in Switzerland. Strasbourg: Council of Europe Press, 1995.

Steiner, Jürg, Hochschulen im Wettbewerb: USASchweiz. Zurich: Vontobel-Stiftung, 2000 (to be published in English in 2002).

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Swiss Embassy, Washington, DC. "Culture and Education." Available from January 3, 2001.

Carol L. Schmid

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Swiss Confederation
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 7,283,274
Language(s): German (official)
63.7%, French (official)
19.2%, Italian (official)
7.6%, Romansch 0.6%,
other 8.9%
Literacy rate: 99.0%
Area: 41,290 sq km
GDP: 239,764 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 104
Total Circulation: 2,666,000
Circulation per 1,000: 454
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 124
Total Circulation: 723,000
Circulation per 1,000: 123
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 2,224 (Swiss Franc millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 52.20
Number of Television Stations: 115
Number of Television Sets: 3,310,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 454.5
Number of Cable Subscribers: 2,578,320
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 358.1
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 295,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 40.5
Number of Radio Stations: 119
Number of Radio Receivers: 7,100,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 974.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 3,600,000
Computers per 1,000: 494.3
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 2,134,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 293.0

Background & General Characteristics

General Description

Switzerland is a land-locked, Central European, Alpine nation that has enjoyed a remarkably long and continuous tradition of independence and political neutrality. The federal structure grants considerable autonomy to the cantons. With a population of 7.28 million and a total area of 15,940 square miles, Switzerland's ethnic and linguistic diversity reflects its location relative to three major neighboring countries: Germany, France, and Italy, respectively. Ethnically, the Swiss German-speaking population is in the majority (approximately 65 percent), followed by the French-speaking (18 percent) and Italian-speaking (10 percent) populations. In addition, a small Romansch ethnic and linguistic minority (approximately 1 percent of the population) enjoys the status of an official language. Roman Catholics constitute the largest religious denomination (46 percent), followed closely by Protestants (40 percent). This diversity, coupled with affluence, nearly universal literacy, and direct civic engagement has been fertile ground for a highly competitive and largely independent press.

Several additional factors combine to shape Switzer-land's diverse press. First, the mountainous terrain has historically fostered regionalism and a concomitant interest in locally based media. Second, the media landscape is characterized by linguistic plurality, even within a dominant linguistic region. Third, Switzerland's traditional status as an independent and neutral country in the heart of Europe has made it an attractive site for major international organizations. This host status has, in turn, supported a broad and diverse interest in national and international news. Fourth, the Swiss economy relies in key areas on international trade, a factor that increases interest in news media. Finally, civic literacy on important national and international issues is aided by the important role which regional and national referenda play in Swiss political affairs.

Traditionally the Swiss press has enjoyed high respect for its diversity and editorial integrity. The code for journalists is specified in the 1972 Declaration of Duties and Rights of Journalists, adopted by the Swiss Federation of Journalists and revised in 1994. The code emphasizes independence as a prerequisite to responsible journalistic action: "The right to information, to free speech and criticism is one of the basic human rights. The duties and rights of journalists derive from the public's right to know facts and opinions. The responsibility of journalists towards the public has priority over any other responsibility, particularly the responsibility to their employers and the state organs."

The Nature of the Audience

The Swiss press competes for a critical and demanding audience in the balanced delivery of local, regional, national, and international news to a population boasting an adult literacy rate of 99 percent and enjoying a relatively high per capita income, even by Western European standards. Swiss citizens on average spend approximately one-half hour per day reading print media. This figure has remained stable for the period 1985 to 2000. During the same time period TV viewing has increased from two to two and one-half hours per day; radio listening increased during the same period from two and one-half hours to three hours daily.

Although the distribution of Swiss newspapers and magazines reflects the linguistic and ethnic composition of the population, the German-language media predominate. There is no discernable religious orientation in the major newspapers and magazines. Special-interest publications represent the interests of various religious groups, including the Jüdische Rundschau. Other special-interest publications include a wide variety of technical and professional publications (e.g. Media Trend Journal ), business-oriented newspapers and magazines (e.g. CASH and Handelszeitung ), sports and leisure, lifestyle and fashion, art and culture, ecology, politics, and computers. The special-interest publications are almost all in magazine format.

Nature of the Journalism Industry

Switzerland has historically boasted the greatest number of newspapers published in proportion to its population and geographical size. In 1999 daily newspapers accounted for 2.65 million sales, a slight decline from the high of 2.85 million sold in 1991, but still above the total circulation of 2.61 million for 1980. Whereas circulation has remained relatively constant, both in terms of subscription and single-copy sales, the number of newspaper titles continues to decrease. Increased competition, concentration of ownership, mergers, and economic weakness have led to a steady decline in the number of daily newspaper titles, particularly during the last two decades of the twentieth century. The number of Swiss daily newspapers fell from 143 to 73 during the period from 1980 to 1999. The fact that total circulation has increased while titles have decreased underscores the extent to which diversity has been reduced during a period of continuing readership.

Almost all major Swiss cities have at least a local newspaper. In addition, the larger cities like Berne, Basle, Geneva, Lausanne, Zurich, and the other cantonal capitals also have regional, and often national, newspapers. The diversity and regional identification of Switzerland's population accounts for a relatively large number of newspaper titles, but circulation is often relatively small. For example, the Bischofszeller Nachrichten daily newspaper had a circulation of 829 in 2000. In the same year there were only 15 daily newspapers with a total circulation of more than 50,000. A total of 86 newspapers had a circulation of less than 5,000; 39 from 5,000 to 10,000; and 15 from 10,000 to 15,000. The circulation of the country's 10 largest newspapers is expected to increase from 1.4 million copies in 1994 to 1.6 million by 2003. For the same time period total circulation of the remaining newspapers is expected to drop from 450,000 to 330,000.

Most daily newspapers, which include those appearing at least four times per week, are published for morning delivery and sales. Newspapers generally cover local, national, and international news on a regular basis. Business, opinion-editorials, sports, and cultural sections are often grouped in separate sections for focused reading. German-language newspapers account for 8 of the 10 largest Swiss newspapers by circulation: Blick (314,200), Tages-Anzeiger (279,900), Neue Zürcher Zeitung (169,100), Berner Zeitung (135,700), Neue Luzerner Zeitung (133,500), Aargauer Zeitung (119,700), Basler Zeitung (115,400), and St. Galler Tagblatt (110,500), followed by the French-language 24 Heures (89,600) and Tribune de Genève (78,400). The most influential newspapers continue to be the German-language Tages-Anzeiger and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and the French-language Le Temps.

In view of the inherent linguistic diversity of the Swiss press, there is an extraordinarily rich diversity in foreign-language publications. This includes publications from the major neighboring countries of Austria, Germany, France, and Italy. In addition major international, English-language newspapers and editions are available. Several Swiss newspapers, information servers, and magazines have online services available in several languages. Swiss newspapers and magazines targeted to foreign-language readers include the Geneva News, and International Report, and the Portuguese-language Gazeta Lusófona.

Economic Framework

The economic climate of the Swiss print media is characterized by keen competition for advertising income. Newspapers are confronting increasing media concentrations in which advertising can reach a larger market segment. The concentration is a result of outright mergers, cooperative ventures, and the elimination of newspaper titles. In addition, electronic media compete with print media and advertising revenues. Most Swiss newspapers are now available online, at least in some summary form. Some titles, like Zürich Online, exist only as an electronic medium. Radio and television are also available as marketing vehicles.

The pressure toward concentration of print media offerings through fewer titles and broader circulation has benefited the advertising industry as revenues have grown in the face of declining placement duplication. Developments during the early 2000s suggest that increases in subscription rates and copy prices are counterproductive. Groupe Edipresse, a French-based conglomerate representing several influential French-language newspapers, including Le Matin,24 Heures, and Tribune de Geneve, experienced a significant drop in circulation when higher prices were introduced. Publishers increasingly try to offset subscription rate increases by offering discounted subscriptions to additional newspapers and/or magazines held by a media group. These tactics aimed toward mass circulation are aided by the continuing trend toward mergers and concentration of titles.

In addition to the challenges posed by increasing competition and concentration of titles, Swiss newspapers have also had to account for new online media technology that has expanded the competition from more traditional electronic media like radio and television. Nonetheless, the Swiss continue to spend more time with print media for information and analysis than with the electronic media. The feeling remains strong that random, independent access to the written word, and the ability to review print media at will, is necessary for comprehension and informed judgment.

The principal reason for the trend toward concentration of ownership is the keen competition for decreasing advertising revenues. In addition, mergers and the increasing use of shared editorial, feature, and supplement sections effectively standardize the editorial image in national and international news reporting. At the same time, coverage of regional and local news has become more competitive because these sections remain largely under the editorial control of the smaller newspapers.

Although it is difficult to assess accurately the relative size of the media conglomerates that have come to dominate the industry, there are a limited number of top media enterprises. Swiss-based Ringier AG controls Cash,SonntagsBlick, and Blick, the largest mass-circulation daily, as well as 11 magazines, 10 television programs, and a variety of media-linked web sites. Tamedia owns four newspapers, including the Tages-Anzeiger. In addition, Tamedia has a 49 percent share in the Berner Zeitung. Tamedia also controls seven magazines, a publishing company, and six regular newspaper supplements. The Basler Mediengruppe has expanded from its foundational newspaper, the daily Basler Zeitung, to include more than a dozen publishing entities as well as local and smaller regional newspapers. Mediax AG controls seven special-interest magazines.

Consolidation of newspaper titles is exemplified by groups such as the Neue Luzerner Zeitung AG, which is in turn controlled by LZ Medien Holding. The Neue Luzerner Zeitung AG not only publishes its flagship newspaper, the Neue Luzerner Zeitung, but also five regional editions. The NZZ-Gruppe has similarly expanded from its original newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, to include media holdings in St. Gallen and Berne.

Swiss newspapers are represented in all major categories of media publication, including full-featured national and regional daily newspapers, regional and local weekly editions, newspapers published three to five times per week, as well as free newspapers. The latter, principally Metropol and 20 Minuten, are small-format newspapers distributed on public transportation. The remaining free newspapers account for almost 70 percent of the total Swiss titles published in 2001. Together, all types of newspapers accounted for 22.6 percent of the Swiss print market. The remaining titles are distributed among consumer-oriented magazines (2.7 percent), special-interest magazines (38 percent), and trade/ professional publications (36.5 percent).

There is no official government newspaper, and political newspapers are confined to informational and policy publications issued by or on behalf of political interest groups, including most prominently environmental protection and agricultural organizations. With the notable exception of the daily mass tabloid Blick and its Sunday edition, SonntagsBlick, newspapers address a largely educated readership with an active interest in information and analysis.

Advertisers exert no editorial control as such. The economic incentive to concentrate ad placement for maximum geographic and demographic exposure does, however, indirectly affect editorial content and marketing decisions. In this regard the WEMF AG, an advertising media research company, and the VSW, an association of Swiss ad agencies, provide regular industry analyses on the Swiss print and broadcast media. The reliance on analyses rests in part on the fact that Swiss newspapers still account for approximately half of all advertising market.

Eighty percent of daily newspapers in Switzerland are sold through subscription. The remaining twenty percent are sold along with large variety of local, national, and international newspapers and magazines at newsstands. The demand for a supply of newsprint has been relatively stable since 1995, when the total consumption of newsprint was 308,000 metric tons. The price of news-print for June 2002 was set at US $465.00 per ton.

The Swiss labor market is characterized by stability, high wages, benefits, and productivity. Strikes are rare, and there have been no organized strikes in the print or broadcast media since 1985. Labor protest generally takes a subtler and less confrontational form. In 1997, for example, journalists for the newspaper Journal de Genève and its rival, le Nouveau Quotidien, protested the proposed merger of the two by withholding their bylines from articles. The labor union Comedia represents approximately 20,000 employees in the media and publishing industry within the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions.

Swiss printing technology is world renowned. Pre-press, press, and postpress technology uses software extensively for digital data processing, archiving, layout, and design. The Neue Zürcher Zeitung, for example, utilizes Ocè DemandStream printing technology to publish its European editions.

Press Laws

Constitutional & Legislative Provisions

Swiss legislation traditionally treats the press differently to preserve its diversity. For example, the 1995 Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints on Competition requires that the Competition Commission be notified in the event of planned mergers or takeovers that exceed a set turnover limitation. This limit is dramatically lower for businesses involved in print or broadcast media, which affects the ability to expand markets through concentration of media holdings.

Swiss press laws are anchored constitutionally and guarantee specifically "freedom of the press, radio and television, and of other forms of public telecasting of productions and information." The constitution furthermore prohibits censorship, and guarantees editorial secrecy. The constitution furthermore stipulates that radio and television legislation is a federal matter. Freedom of the press (i.e., the ability to gather and publish information and opinions freely) is also traditionally understood in Switzerland to protect the right to establish newspapers. This reflects historical support for the intrinsic value of a diverse, pluralistic press landscape. In view of changing economic circumstances, the predisposition toward 'more is better' may perhaps come under review.

Several laws and legislative initiatives have an indirect bearing on press freedom in its economic sense. This includes the restrictive provisions of the 1995 Federal Act on Cartels and Other Restraints on Competition. Also significant is the 1986 Law Against Unfair Competition, which provides for third-party liability in the event of alleged unfair competition. This has led in one notable case to legal suppression of an article on the grounds that the journalist had not reported fairly on supposed health risks associated with microwave ovens. A 1998 ruling by the European Court of Human Rights was issued against Switzerland for its literal and restrictive interpretation of unfair competition. Discussion is ongoing regarding the 1992 Federal Law on Data Protection. At issue is whether journalists may refuse access to confidential information. The debate seeks to reconcile the professional right of the investigative journalist and the right to privacy.

The extent to which press plurality and diversity continue to be prized is illustrated by current discussions about draft legislation for a so-called Diversity Law (Vielfaltsgesetz), which is designed to strengthen the economic viability of the press. The draft includes a provision for generous postal delivery subsidies in the case of newspapers and magazines.


In 1979 the Swiss Federal Chancery issued specific guidelines, revised 1990, regarding the accreditation of journalists seeking official status when covering the bicameral legislature. Otherwise, there are no specific licensing or accreditation laws governing newspapers or journalists. Guidelines for editorial and journalistic practice are established by the major national and international professional associations to which the majority of newspapers and professional journalists adhere. These include the liberal Swiss Union of Journalists (Schweizerische Journalistinnen und Journalisten Union), and oldest professional association, the Swiss Federation of Journalists (Schweizer Verband der Journalistinnen und Journalisten), whose members subscribe to a specific "Declaration of Rights and Duties of Journalists." The Swiss Press Council (Schweizer Presserat) is available to hear private and professional complaints involving journalistic ethics. In all matters of legal adjudication, the Swiss judiciary is independent.


The freedom of the press is not infringed upon by censorship. The press takes its role as a critically analytical intermediary between the public and private sectors seriously. The diversity of languages and regions reflected in the Swiss press virtually assures that news cannot be suppressed, even if such an attempt were made. Documented infringement is indirect and extremely rare. When a BBC-produced documentary on the Holocaust criticized Switzerland's role during World War II, there was strong protest from Switzerland, but in only one case did a right-wing Swiss member of parliament shut down a television channel in response to popular protest.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Given the relatively great dependence of the Swiss economy on foreign trade, as well as its historical attractiveness for international organizations, the attitude toward foreign media is liberal and characterized by keen interest in European and global affairs. This attitude extends to the ownership of domestic media, which is a matter of economic forces rather than specific legal restriction. Foreign journalists enjoy rights consistent with the exercise of their profession in open, democratic societies.

Events following attack on the New York World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, affected the Swiss press. In October 2001, a European-based correspondent for an Arabic newspaper was jailed temporarily as he entered Switzerland to cover an international conference. Upon release the journalist was expelled from Switzerland. Such rare instances of interference must be seen against the background of a generally zealous attitude toward safeguarding the domestic peace, particularly in view of a perceived international terrorist threat.

Although Switzerland remains reluctant about full membership in European and international organizations, owing largely to concerns about independence and neutrality, it participates actively in most international organizations and is a signatory to key international treaties and agreements.

News Agencies

The Swiss Press Agency (Schweizerische Depeschenagentur) is the nonprofit, private national news agency. It issues reports on politics, business, culture, and sports in German, French, and Italian. Almost all Swiss and two dozen foreign media subscribe to its services.

Broadcast Media

The Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (Schweizerische Radio und Fernsehgesellschaft; SBC) is charged with the production and broadcast of radio and television programs. The management and organization of radio and television is based on Article 93 of the Swiss Federal Constitution. In addition, the act mandates independent complaint review. The 1991 Federal Radio and Television Law clarifies the mandate in greater detail. With respect to broadcast media, Article 3 states:

Radio and Television shall contribute to education and cultural development, to the free formation of opinion, and to the entertainment of the listeners and viewers. They shall take into account the particularities of the country and the needs of the Cantons. They shall present events factually, and reflect diverse opinions fairly and adequately. The independence of radio and television and the autonomy of their programming are guaranteed. The situation and the role of other media, in particular the press, shall be taken into account. It shall be possible to submit complaints about programs to an independent authority.

The SBC has recently changed its logo to highlight its multilingual and multicultural mission and audience from the rather prosaic SRG to SRG SSR idée suisse.

The SBC is legally empowered to issue licenses and to levy license fees, based on radio and television set ownership, for the full financing of radio and partial financing of television. It is also charged with providing all linguistic regions with quality and diverse programming. In 2000 revenues from licensing fees amounted to SF 1.06 billion, whereas television advertising amounted to SF 370 million. Increases in licensing fees are subject to legislative approval. Because the government is reluctant to give the impression of limiting access to broadcast media through excessive licensing fees, the SBC traditionally depends in part on public financing.

SBC studios are distributed throughout the various language regions. Radio content is produced in six central and four regional studios, which provide content for nine stations. The program content distribution for 2000 included 56 percent light music, 16 percent classical music, and 10 percent news and current affairs. In addition 49 private, noncommercial FM radio stations broadcast in local and regional markets. The Association of Swiss Private Radios (Verband Schweizer Privatradios) represents 25 private radio broadcasters. International broadcast services are provided in nine languages through swissinfo, an affiliate of the SBC. SBC also owns a controlling stake in Swiss TXT, which provides teletext information and news.

Three television studios, located in Geneva, Lugano, and Zurich, produce six independent programs, two for each linguistic region, as well as special programs in the Romansch language. The SBC also maintains partnership and programming relationships with cable television stations, including CNN, 3SAT, Eurosport, TV5, and arte. Access to domestic and foreign broadcasting is broad thanks to a 93 percent cable and satellite penetration rate, giving the average Swiss household access to more than 20 TV channels.

The market for private, nationally broadcast television channels is hindered by the relatively small yet highly competitive market. Nonetheless, increasing pressure to deregulate the broadcast media opened opportunities during the late 1990s. One channel, Tele 24, went on the air in 1998 and shut down two years later. Another private cable station, TV3, lost financial backing from the Tamedia concern in the early 2000s, placing its future solvency in question. In part financing difficulties are a result of Swiss demographics. Although Switzerland has high advertising expenditures, the penetration data for television lags behind the print media.

Electronic News Media

The Internet as a media infrastructure dramatically impacted the Swiss media landscape during last years of the twentieth century and continues to shape the country's media into the twenty-first century. Data for 2001 indicated that 59.6 percent of Swiss homes have Internet access. More than a dozen full-service webzines and online journals have established themselves. In addition, most national and the larger regional newspapers are now also available online. Of the top 20 media Web sites in Switzerland, 4 sites (all online editions of newspapers) account for one third of the total hits. These include Edicom, with links to the newspapers Le Matin,Tribune de Genève, and 24 heures, as well as an online version of Swiss TXT. Bluewin AG provides full Internet services for residential and small-business customers via its bluewin portal. Internet security concerns are addressed specifically through SecuMedia AG, which coordinates environmental-protection, safety, and security media via its SiLine portal. Media consulting businesses have expanded their services correspondingly, including tracking top Web sites in Switzerland.

The sobering economic reality of online media has forced a basic reconsideration of content, marketing, and editorial-policy issues with respect to the press. For service and product providers the Internet represents an opportunity to develop and expand a customer base. However, for the vast majority of media providers, the Internet creates new problems, such as content duplication and further diluted advertising revenues.

Education & Training

Review of Education in Journalism

The Swiss educational system is geared, particularly at the secondary level, toward a distinction between vocational education and preparation for post-secondary academic learning. Until recently few secondary courses of vocational study were designed specifically for preparing journalists in the print and broadcasting media. In 1995 a directory of professions was established, which permits registered journalists and editors to designate themselves professionally.

Entry into the journalistic professions generally require graduation from a vocational, secondary, or post-secondary school. An internship in an appropriate setting is also usually required. Additional courses of study are available at several universities, institutes, and technical colleges. The required period of study may be shortened for university-level graduates. In rare cases, direct employment in the print or broadcast media is possible.

In view of Switzerland's federal structure, cantonal universities vary greatly with respect to curricula, requirements for a course of study, and tuition. The technical universities in Zurich and Lausanne are federal institutions. The major courses of journalism and media study available at Swiss universities include:

  • Institute for Media Studies at the University of Basle (Institut für Medienwissenschaften);
  • Institute for Media Studies at the University of Berne (Institut für Medienwissenschaft);
  • Institute for Journalism and Communication Study at the University of Fribourg (Institut für Journalistik und Kommunikationswissenschaft);
  • Communication and Media Studies at the University of Geneva (Sciences de la communication et des médias);
  • Institute for Mass Communication Sociology at the University of Lausanne (Institut de sociologie des communications de masse);
  • Communication Science Department at the University of Lugano (Facoltà di scienze della comunicazione);
  • Institute for Communication and Culture at the University of Lucern (Institut für Kommunikation und Kultur);
  • Institute for Journalism and Communication at the University of Neuchâtel (Institut de journalisme et communication);
  • Institute for Publishing and Media Research at the University of Zurich (Institut für Publizistik und Medienforschung);
  • Institute for Media and Communication Management at the University of St. Gallen (Institut für Medien und Kommunikationsmanagement).

The innovative approach to journalism education and the rise of new, electronic media is exemplified by the University of Lugano, which offers a Swiss Master of Public Relations with an emphasis on multimedia and comprehensive competencies in journalistic, technical, and commercial areas.

In-house training has been a common feature of journalistic education, and the Schweizer Presse (Swiss Press) umbrella organization for newspaper and magazine publishers supports its own training facility, the Medieninstitut (Media Institute), located in Zurich. The media conglomerate Ringier AG has been offering training in its own Journalistenschule (School of Journalism) since 1974. The Medienausbildungszentrum MAZ (Media Training Center), established in 1984 and located near Lucern, is the largest journalism school. Issues of certification and continuing training are also coordinated by the group, Qualität im Journalismus (Quality in Journalism), founded in 1999.

The relatively rapid and diverse proliferation of specific educational opportunities for Swiss journalists is explained in part by a historical sense that no particular training is required for journalists and editors. As Andreas Doepfner, editor of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, wrote in a study for the European Journalism Centre (Bierhoff): "In our newsroom, we traditionally have put emphasis on personal responsibility for further orientation and individual development. Nothing is mandatory, but a lot is possible. You now notice that people increasingly start using the opportunities on offer, and especially value seminars which offer in-depth background to existing expertise."

Journalistic Awards & Prizes

In keeping with the Swiss tradition of diversity, and in view of the need to promote and recognize professionalism and quality, the Swiss offer a comparatively broad spectrum of awards and prizes. Whereas some are distinctly partisan, as indicated by their sponsors, several seek to recognize the impact of new electronic media and thereby to expand the boundaries of quality and professional journalism. It is significant to note that several of the prizes are designed specifically to recognize, and hence promote, the work of young journalists. In this way, the publicity that comes with the awards also acts to stimulate professional development. The awards include:

  • ALSTOM Journalism Award, sponsored by ALSTOM AG and recognizing reporting on energy-related topics;
  • Prix Media SANW, offered by the Swiss Academy of Natural Sciences;
  • Prix Media SANW, sponsored by the Swiss Academy for the Humanities and Social Sciences;
  • Forschungsreportagen-Wettbewerb (Research Reporting Competition), sponsored by the University of Berne and honoring reporting on university research;
  • Nationaler Medienpreis zur Förderung junger Journalisten, sponsored by the Swiss Association of Catholic Journalists to recognize young journalists;
  • Medienpreis idée suisse, awarded by the SBC;
  • Qualität im Journalismus sponsors various media awards and prizes;
  • Weltwoche-Preis für junge Journalisten, awarded to young journalists by the weekly newspaper, Weltwoche;
  • BZ-Preis für Lokaljournalismus, awarded for local journalism by the Berner Zeitung;
  • Espace-Media-Preis Swiss Press Photo, awarded for photo journalism by the media conglomerate;
  • Pharmacia & Upjohn Journalistenpreis, awarded for pharmaceutically oriented reporting;
  • Medienpreis Aargau/Solothurn, awarded for excellence in regional reporting;
  • Katholischer Medienpreis, awarded by the Media Commission of the Swiss Bishops Conference;
  • AgroPreis, sponsored by the Schweizer Bauernver-band (Swiss Farmers Association);
  • Journalistenpreis, awarded by the Emmentalische Mobiliar insurance company;
  • Aeskulap-Journalistenpreis, awarded for reporting on alternative health care;
  • Zürcher Journalistenpreis, awarded by the Zurich Press Club;
  • Von Roll Award, for contributions promoting the relationship between journalism and Swiss industry;

Major Journalistic Associations & Organizations

The major trade union associations represent primarily the employment interests of journalists. In addition, two distinct trends have emerged in the development of professional organizations. One addresses the professional status of working principally involved with new electronic media (e.g., //syndikat). A second trend addresses the need for quality control and professionalism in the journalistic profession (e.g., Qualität im Journalismus). The major journalistic and media organizations include:

  • Schweizer Verband der Journalistinnen und Journalisten (Swiss Association of Journalists);
  • Comedia Mediengewerkschaft (Comedia Media Union), affiliated with the Swiss Trade Union Council;
  • Schweizer Syndikat Medienschaffender (Swiss Media Employees Union), also a member of the Swiss Trade Union Council;
  • //syndikat, representing online employees and free-lancers;
  • Verband Schweizer Fachjournalisten (Association of Swiss Specialized Journalists), representing the interests of journalists and editors of trade and professional publications;
  • Zürcher Presseverein (Zurich Press Club);
  • Verein Freier Berufsjournalistinnen und journalisten Zürich (Zurich Freelance Journalists Club);
  • Schweizer Klub für Wissenschaftsjournalismus (Swiss Scientific Journalism Club);
  • Schweizer Presserat (Swiss Press Council);
  • Qualität im Journalismus (Quality in Journalism);
  • Verband Schweizer Presse (Swiss Press Association), representing the interests of publishers.


Given Switzerland's small geographical size and population, it has a remarkably rich press tradition. Several factors have contributed to this tradition. Switzerland's neutrality has promoted a stable political, social, and economic system, particularly throughout the 20th century. Its population is well educated and affluent, ranking regularly first in economic and demographic indicators among Western European nations. Switzerland's location in Central Europe places it at the crossroads of three major ethnic and linguistic groups: German, French, and Italian. Respect for independence and social and political stability help to explain the official status that Switzerland continues to accord the three languages. This intrinsic acknowledgment of ethnic and linguistic diversity extends even to the numerically small Romansch community. The traditional isolation of regions, based on linguistic differences and the nature of Swiss geography, has also fostered a deep identification with locality. The emphasis on cantonal autonomy in fundamental matters further underscores a strong regional identification, and hence a relative sense of independence from centralized authority. Swiss neutrality has made it both an economic haven in turbulent times (e.g. international banking) and a host site for various transnational organizations (e.g. the International Red Cross).

Taken together, these factors help to explain the extraordinary diversity of the Swiss press landscape. A wide spectrum of local, regional, and national newspapers, serving distinct linguistic groups, continues to meet the strong demand from a highly educated, affluent, and independent readership that still relies on printed media for information, analysis, and orientation. The trend toward concentration of ownership and newspaper shutdowns is driven primarily by economic factors rather than by political considerations. Freedom of the press is taken both literally and figuratively in the broadest sense of the term.

In contrast to the print media, the Swiss broadcast media has always been under greater control of the federal government, particularly in the areas of financing and licensing. Although the Swiss market is lucrative on a per capita basis for commercial broadcast investors, overall market size and supplemental revenue sources primarily generated by advertising continue to undermine the profitability of private commercial television. In any event, an extensive cable network allows most Swiss access to programming from neighboring countries.

Increasing access to electronic media, particularly via the Internet, has further expanded the availability of news and information sources. Here, too, economic factors are largely responsible for the changing fortunes of online service and information providers.

Trends & Prospects for the Media

The trend in the print media continues to move toward fewer editorially independent newspapers. This will increase pressure on the remaining newspapers to cut costs, increase circulation, or to tailor their content more carefully to a specifically targeted readership. The danger in this approach is the potential sacrifice of journalistic and editorial integrity to increase profitability. The focus on professionalizing journalism through training and adherence to professional guidelines will have a positive impact on the quality of journalism, but it has the potential to further erode the viability of small, local publications. The revelations about Switzerland's role in World War II (i.e., holding the financial assets of Holocaust victims in Swiss banks) underscores the need for a responsible press that can monitor and guide the public debate on sensitive issues.

The broadcast media is moving toward increasing deregulation to address the current disincentives to private commercial radio and television. At the very least, the essentially monopolistic control of the SBC will continue to be debated.

Electronic media will continue to grow as a media infrastructure. Given traditional Swiss preoccupation with privacy, it is likely that data protection will play a major role in the national debate about the rights and responsibilities of various media.

Finally, access and regulation issues will require increasing coordination with Switzerland's European neighbors as the debate about Switzerland's entry into the European Union intensifies. The process of adapting to the changing realities of the various media markets is likely to be slow, fraught with problems of coordinating various cantonal and federal initiatives, but it is likely to be thorough and based upon informed consent. In this sense, the Swiss press will initiate and referee the debate about changing itself.

Significant Dates

  • 1999: The World Association of Newspapers conference is held in Switzerland; metropol and 20 Minuten, new free newspapers targeting commuters, are introduced to the Swiss market.
  • 2001: Friedrich Leibacher storms the Swiss parliament building, killing 14 people before committing suicide.
  • 2002: Switzerland's new president formally begins his duties with a call for a serious national debate on joining the United Nations; the Swiss national airline, Swissair, ceases operation.


Bellwald, W., et al. Blätterwald Schweiz. Zahlen und Fakten zur Zeitungsstruktur. Zürich: Seminar für Publizistikwissenschaft, 1991.

Bierhoff, Jan, et al. Media Innovation, Professional Debate and Media Training: A European Analysis. December 2000. Available from

Bruderer, H. E. Redaktionelle Zusammenarbeit von Tageszeitungen: Möglichkeiten und Grenzen. Rorschach: Bodenseeverlag Bruderer, 1990.

Evolution de la diversité de la presse, 1980-1999 / Entwicklung der Pressevielfalt 1980-1999. Neuchâtel: Office fédáral de la statistique / Bundesamt für Statistik, 2001.

Katalog der Schweizer Presse. Zeitungen, Amtsblätter, Anzeiger, Publikums-Zeitschriften / Catalogue de la presse suisse. Journaux, feuilles officielles, feuilles d'áannonces, périodiques s'áadressant au grand public. Ed. Verband Schweizerischer Werbegesellschaften VSW / Association des sociétés Suisses de Publicité ASSP. Zü-rich: VSW / ASSP, 1980-1999.

Noelle-Neumann, E. et al., eds. Fischer Lexikon Publizistik Massenkommunikation. Frankfurt: Fischer Verlag, 1994.

Rathgeb, J. Medienstatistik Schweiz. Strukturdaten der Schweizer Massenmedien. Zürich: Seminar für Publizistikwissenschaft der Universität, 1994.

Schulthess-Eberle, H. Impressum-schweizerisches Medien-Handbuch. Leutwil: Medienpublikationen Hildegard Schulthess-Eberle, 1980-1999.

WEMF Auflagen-Bulletin / REMP bulletin des tirages. Ed. WEMF AG für Werbemedienforschung / REMP recherches et études des médias publicitaires SA. Zürich: AG für Werbemedienforschung, 1980-1999.

Siegfried Christoph

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Switzerland is a highly segmented society. Marital behavior, divorce, and fertility have varied significantly by language regions and religious denomination. In addition, regional differences in family law and social policies, which are strong due to the far-reaching autonomy of the cantons (administrative and geographic units analogous to states or provinces), have played an important role in this respect (Sommer and Höpflinger 1989; Fux 2002a).

Switzerland can be characterized by its early modernization of family and household structures as well as of marital and reproductive behavior. Socioeconomic and cultural factors favored the early demographic shift to the nuclear family. The same conditions probably influenced the early diffusion of contraception (Fux 2002a). Marriage rates were significantly lower than they were in most other European countries from the nineteenth century up to the 1980s. Since then, first marriage rates have tended to converge with those of the other European countries.

Switzerland has always had comparatively high ages at marriage and high proportions of people remaining single. Differences among countries in men's and women's ages at first marriage and mother's age at first birth have grown in recent years. In 1999, the mean age of women at first marriage was 27.7 years. The divorce rate in the past was continuously higher than the European average, possibly because of comparatively liberal divorce law. Since the 1970s, Switzerland's divorce rates have tended to become more like those of other European countries. However, a total divorce rate of 50 per 100 initial marriages in 1999 is still one of the highest in Europe.

The rise and fall of marital birth rates in Switzerland follows the European average very closely (Lüscher and Engstler 1991; Fux 1994). Total fertility rates fluctuated at 1.5 (1999). In 1999, the age at first birth stood at 28.5 years and the mean age at childbearing (any child) at 29.7 years. By contrast, out-of-wedlock births have remained constant at a comparatively low level. No more than 10 out of 100 births were registered as extramarital. The number of couples remaining childless, however, is rapidly increasing. Among all (married and unmarried) women born in 1963, 27.9 percent remain childless. This is one of the highest rates in Europe (Fux and Baumgartner 2000).

Pragmatic accommodation strategies rather than fundamentally conservative behavior and beliefs reflect what might appear to be conflicting trends: Families in Switzerland were early adopters of modern family and household structure but also retained traditional values and attitudes. Switzerland's particular characteristics are influenced by several factors. First, couples have to accommodate barriers produced by a lean welfare state that force them to find individual solutions for the organization of family life (Coenen-Huther et al. 1994; Fux 1997, 2001b; Fux and Baumgartner 2002). The welfare state also influences the low rate of out-of-wedlock births and the comparatively high and increasing age at marriage and at first births, as well as the increasing celibacy and proportion of couples remaining childless.

Households and Families

Families in Switzerland are confronted with a changing temporal organization of the life course. Under current conditions, people, particularly those between the ages of twenty and thirty, decide more or less on their own in what order they will make important changes in their lives, such as leaving the parental home, starting a partnership or marriage, or becoming a parent. This is related to the emergence of new phases in the life course, such as singlehood or the premarital stage. Consequently, the proportion of one-person households doubled from 14.2 percent in 1960 to 32.4 percent in 1990.

A rapid spread of new living arrangements has also become evident. In particular, unmarried cohabitation became very popular. In 1995, cohabitation rates stood as follows: 25 percent of people between the ages of twenty and twenty-four were cohabiting; 20 percent of people between twenty-five and twenty-nine; 11 percent of people between the ages of thirty and thirty-four; and 7 percent of the group between the ages of thirty-five and thirty-nine. In international comparisons, Switzerland is ranked in the upper quartile out of a sample of nineteen countries. However, few couples with children cohabitant. Parenthood is still a strong motivation to marry. For birth cohorts from 1955 onwards, unmarried cohabitation is the first step in partnership formation for more than 60 percent of the population (Fux and Baumgartner 1998).

Single parenthood is rare (in 1960, 6.2 percent, and 1990, 5.1 percent of all private households; census data in Switzerland), and did not increase, in contrast to many other countries. The rapid increase in childlessness has already been discussed. This increase is influenced by problems in reconciling employment and the family. Women's labor force participation among the population of Swiss origin was very low until the late 1970s, but then started to rise continuously. However, analyzing the pattern in the division of labor between spouses, the traditional breadwinner/homemaker model is still dominant. Evidence indicates that 40 to 50 percent of the population believes that the model "no job, if children are young" is the best strategy, and only 5 to 10 percent favor "no job, if a person has children" as the best solution (Fux 1997, 1998).

Deficiencies in the family policy system (e.g., scarcity of public childcare arrangements, barriers to female labor force participation, insufficient recognition of family achievements) enforce a polarization between the married and nonmarried, and the family (couples with children) and the nonfamily sector, respectively. These trends are linked with relevant changes in the meaning of the components that constitute a family. Adaptations in the patterns of intergenerational solidarity and the functions of the kinship networks are reflected in the much longer time that young adults remain in the parental household. The mean age at leaving the parental home increased from 20.4 and 19.2 for men and women, respectively, who were born between 1945 and 1949 to 21.7 and 19.9 for men and women born between 1965 and 1969 (Gabadinho and Wanner 1999). Furthermore, quasi-simultaneous transitions (i.e., an interval of less than six months between leaving home and marrying) from living in the parental home to a marital union is rapidly decreasing. Also, the meaning of marriage is changing towards a pragmatic interpretation (in the sense of a bilateral contract rather than as an institution). Marital functioning of families is changing. Types of family functioning based on companionship and a weak association between the partners have become very popular, in contrast to other types that are characterized by a strong hierarchy between spouses, or by a traditional form in the division of labor (Coenen-Huther et al. 1994; Kellerhals 1992; Kellerhals et al. 1991).

Parenthood, too, is showing shifts in its meaning and function. Premodern societies were characterized by rigid religious and ethical norms that dictated a close coupling between sexuality and procreation. This connection has become weaker during the past decades. Sexuality has become a commonly accepted part of an individual's way of life. Biological reproduction, by contrast, has to compete more and more with other values, aims, and interests of a person or couple. It becomes therefore an object of rational planning. The postponement of the age at marriage, the age at birth of a first child, as well as the gravitation towards smaller family sizes all depend on such a rationalization of reproductive behavior.


Different traditions influence attitudinal change in Switzerland. Liberalism favored the spread of a concept of privacy in which the family was seen as largely autonomous and able to provide for itself. Liberalism (predominant in the traditionally Protestant cantons and cities) is positively associated with the acceptance of divorce, abortion, and the spread of new living arrangements. A more conservative ideology dominates in central Switzerland and some of the French-speaking cantons. It is linked with Catholicism and anti-etatism (opposition to state intervention). Conservatives view the family as a fundamental institution and children as essential elements. From this point of view, the value of children is high, and divorce and abortion are less accepted. Social democratic and feminist ideologies are more common in the urban and economic centers and are often linked with post-materialist orientations (i.e., having interests in things other than consumption—for example, personal autonomy, self-fulfilment, environmental quality, community, conviviality, etc.); thus family and children are not major issues. It seems that leftist ideas are associated with a higher propensity to accept abortion and new living arrangements.

The first representative polls on family attitudes were conducted around 1990 (Melich et al. 1991; Fux et al. 1997; Dorbritz and Fux 1997; Fux and Pfeiffer 1999; Gabadinho and Wanner 1999; Fux and Baumgartner 1998). In 1992, a huge majority of the Swiss population aged eighteen and older was not in favor of the increase in divorce (84 percent) (Fux et al. 1997; Dorbritz and Fux 1997; Fux and Pfeiffer 1999). "The partner does not love me any longer" (73%), disharmony between spouses (59%), and infidelity (56%), however, are widely accepted grounds for divorce (Gabadinho and Wanner 1999; Fux and Baumgartner 1998). Ninety-one percent of the Swiss population considered the well-being of the mother and 61 percent the risk of bearing a handicapped child as legitimate reasons for abortion. About one out of four respondents mentioned that abortion is justified if the woman (26%) or the couple (24%) does not want a child, or if the mother is unmarried (15%). According to this source, 47 percent of respondents had no objections to single women wanting to raise their own children alone. One in three respondents (31%) mentioned that parents should always "sacrifice for the sake of their children." In contrast, 75 percent of all respondents agreed with the statement "parents must always be loved and respected by their children," rather than the alternative, "one cannot demand that children are always obedient to their parents."

Beat Fux's research allows international comparisons because similar surveys were conducted also in eight other European countries (Fux et al. 1997). Many Swiss people accept recent demographic trends (decrease in marriages and births, increase in divorce) and the spread of new living arrangements (unmarried cohabitation, childlessness, single parenthood, singlehood, and out-of-wedlock births). The degree of tolerance towards these trends (Switzerland, mean: 7.2) is lower than in the Netherlands (mean: 9.5), but significantly higher than in the former Czechoslovakia (mean: 5.3), Austria (mean: 6.5), and Italy (mean: 6.6). Within Switzerland, French-speaking and Italian-speaking people accept these trends to a lesser degree than do German-speaking people. However, intranational variation is smaller than international variation in this respect.

A similar pattern can be found regarding the belief in the value of children. Along with the Netherlands, Switzerland belongs to the countries that place a comparatively low value on children, while respondents in former socialist countries, in the south of Europe, and in Germany, give significantly higher value to children. Again, a marked variation is observed within Switzerland. In the French- and Italian-speaking parts of the country, children seem to be more valued than in the German-speaking regions. By contrast, attitudes and value orientations related to the family show only a small variation, both among countries and within Switzerland. In all of the countries under observation, the family remains an important institution.

Switzerland is characterized by a comparatively high tolerance towards various family-related trends, though such openness to new family forms does not preclude a high appreciation for the family institution. The internal divisions within Swiss society markedly influence individual attitudes. In the French-speaking regions and urban centers, and among those with no religious affiliation, acceptance of divorce and abortion is higher than in the German- and Italian-speaking areas. Regarding the spread of new living arrangements, the German-speaking areas seem to be more tolerant, while intergenerational relations and children are more valued in the Latin areas than in the German regions. Catholics and Protestants, however, show only minor differences. In an international perspective, Switzerland is more similar to the Netherlands than to Austria, Germany, or Italy.


Changes related to the family and the household composition in Switzerland remain moderate. Many of the relevant shifts in behavior and attitudes are comparable with experiences in other European countries. However, Switzerland is distinctive in some notable ways. On the one hand, Switzerland was an early adopter of modern lifestyles (e.g., demographic transition, decline of fertility, nuclearization, increase in divorce, and in unmarried cohabitation). On the other, what also remain are more traditional aspects, such as the low proportions of extramarital births and few single parents, as well as women's comparatively slow entrance into the labor force, and the persistence of such values and attitudes as a high appreciation of marriage and parenting.

These diverging trends highlight differences between liberal and more conservative forces within the country. Explanations for this polarization are twofold. First, Switzerland is a highly segmented society (in terms of its economic, cultural, religious, and linguistic conditions). Second, Swiss families are confronted with comparatively high thresholds due to important deficiencies in the country's family policy. The latter cause influences the strong postponement in the age of marriage and first births, and the increase in childlessness.

See also:Germany


coenen-huther, j.; kellerhals, j.; and von allmen, malik.(1994). les réseaux de solidarité dans la famille. lausanne: réalités sociales.

dorbritz, j., and fux, b., eds. (1997). einstellungen zurfamilienpolitik in europa. ergebnisse eines vergleichenden surveys in den ländern des "european comparative survey on population policy acceptance" (ppa). schriftenreihe des bundesinstituts für bevölkerungsforschung bd. 24. münchen: harald boldt verlag im r. oldenbourg verlag.

fux, b. (1994). der familienpolitische diskurs. eine theoretische und empirische untersuchung über das zusammenwirken und den wandel von familienpolitik, fertilität und familie. sozialpolitische schriften, heft 64. berlin: duncker and humblot.

fux, b. (1997). "switzerland: the family neglected by thestate." in family life and family policies in europe, vol. 1: structures and trends in the 1980s, ed. f.-x. kaufmann, a. kuijsten, h.-j. schulze, and k. p. strohmeier. oxford: clarendon press.

fux, b. (2002a). "family change and family policy inswitzerland." in family change and family policies in consociational democracies: belgium, switzerland, and the netherlands, vol. 2, ed. p. flora. oxford: clarendon press.

fux, b. (2002b). "which models of the family are en- ordiscouraged by different family policies?" in family life and family policies in europe, vol. 2: comparative analyses, ed. f.-x. kaufmann, h.-j. schulze, et al. oxford: clarendon press.

fux, b., and baumgartner, a. d. (1998). wandel von familialen lebensformen: lebensverläufe—lebensentwürfe. materialienband 3. zürich: schlussbericht an den schweizerischen nationalfonds.

fux, b., and baumgartner, a.d. (2000). "ein baby? eher nicht. die neue kinderlosigkeit—ein gesellschaftlicher trend und dessen hintergründe." neue zürcher zeitung 123(27/28):101–102.

fux, b., and baumgartner, a. d. (2002). "impact of population related policies on selected living arrangements. comparative analyses on regional level in belgium, the netherlands, and switzerland." in comparative analyses on the basis of family and fertility surveys (ffs), vol. 2, ed. un-ece, genf 2001.

fux, b.; bösch, a.; gisler, p.; and baumgartner, a. d.(1997). bevölkerung-und eine prise politik. die schweizerische migrations-, familien-und alterspolitik im fadenkreuz von einstellungen und bewertungen. zürich: seismo verlag.

fux, b., and pfeiffer, c. (1999). "ehe, familie, kinderzahl:gesellschaftliche normen und individuellezielvorstellungen." in bericht über die situation der familie in Österreich 1999, ed. bundesministerium für umwelt, jugend und familie. wien: bmujf.

gabadinho, a., and wanner, p. (1999). fertility and family surveys in countries of the ece region, standard country report: switzerland. geneva: un-ece.

hoffmann-nowotny, h.-j.; höhn, c.; and fux, b. (1992).kinderzahl und familienpolitik im drei-länder-vergleich. schriftenreihe des bundesinstituts für bevölkerungsforschung. boppard a.rh.: boldt verlag.

hoffmann-nowotny, h.-j.; höpflinger, f.; et al. (1984).planspiel familie. familie, kinderwunsch und familienplanung in der schweiz. diessenhofen: rüegger.

höpflinger, f., and erni-schneuwly, d., eds. (1989). weichenstellungen-lebensformen im wandel und lebenslage junger frauen. bern: haupt.

kellerhals, j. (1992). microsociologie de la famille. 2nd edition. paris: puf.

kellerhals, j., and montandon, c. (1991). les stratégies éducatives des familles : milieu social, dynamique familiale et éducation des pré-adolescents. lausanne et neuch‚tel: delachaux et niestlé.

lüscher, k., and engstler, h. (1991). formen der familiengründung in der schweiz. bern: bundesamt für statistik.

melich, anna, et al., eds. (1991). les valeurs des suisses.bern: lang.

sommer, j. h., and höpflinger, f. (1989). wandel derlebensformen und soziale sicherheit. forschungs-stand und wissenslücken. chur: rüegger.


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SWITZERLAND. The region and the state known as Switzerland took shape during the late medieval and early modern periods. Before 1300, the country north of the central Alps simply lay within the Swabian and Burgundian parts of the Holy Roman Empire. By 1789, in contrast, the Swiss Confederation possessed a distinct national identity and enjoyed sovereignty under international law. The confederation included thirteen self-governing Orte or cantons, several subsidiary but autonomous allies, and various subject territories. Geography played a considerable role in shaping Switzerland over these centuries. The region's central location, spanning western Europe's major language boundaries and containing mountain passes used by traders and travelers, ensured that the Swiss experienced all of Europe's major political and cultural movements. Yet the difficult terrain of the Alps and the area's relative poverty also left Switzerland marginal to Europe's great centers of power and wealth.

Modern Switzerland is known for being multi-lingual, democratic, neutral, and wealthy. The early modern confederation acquired these characteristics only slowly. All but one of the ruling cantons were German-speaking, although they did have French- and Italian-speaking subjects. Voting by male citizens played an important role in some cantons, but political control mostly rested with a few families, while the subject territories and many areas outside city walls had limited political rights. Especially before 1550, the confederation was also warlike, playing a major role in the Burgundian Wars of the 1470s and the Italian Wars after 1494. Finally, most early modern Swiss were poor, and even the richest had only modest fortunes by European standards.


Three related processes shaped the Swiss Confederation during the late Middle Ages: the growth of overlapping alliances among the cantons and their associates, the consolidation of internal regimes that controlled well-defined territories, and the development of shared responsibilities and institutions. Switzerland's development also depended on changing relations with the Holy Roman Empire, the Habsburg family of dynasts and emperors, and powerful neighbors to the west and south. The local economy rested on agriculture (including cattle and dairy products for export), transit, and mercenary services; by the eighteenth century, proto-industrial production of textiles and other goods provided further sources of wealth.

The confederation acquired its thirteen full members in two major waves, one before 1360 and the second after 1480. The first took place in an era of weak imperial authority and constant feuding among the region's nobility. This spurred communities to form alliances that could defend the public peace and increase local autonomy. The earliest known Swiss alliance linked Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden in 1291; though unusual in having only rural members, it resembled similar leagues across the region. Further alliances with Lucerne in the 1330s and with Zurich, Zug, Glarus, and Bern in the 1350s produced a substantial confederation of rural and urban communities that proved its significance by defeating the key regional dynasts, the Habsburgs, in the Sempach war of 1386.

Internal consolidation in each canton accompanied the growth of the Swiss system. In the rural cantons, the political base broadened as local nobles yielded power to communal assemblies after the 1360s. In Zurich and Basel, guild regimes took power; various accommodations widened political participation in other towns as well. Across the countryside during the 1400s, peasant communes became better organized and increased their economic and judicial authority. Both the urban and rural cantons sought to expand their influence, though they used very different strategies. Towns like Zurich and Bern became lords over the countryside outside their walls through purchase, mortgage, or conquest. The rural cantons, above all Schwyz, allied themselves with regional peasant movements against lords, notably in Appenzell, thus gaining allies for further expansion. The two methods came into conflict in the 1440s, when the confederation nearly collapsed during a bitter territorial war between Zurich and Schwyz.

The growth of shared institutions helped mute such rivalries. In 1415 and 1460, the Swiss seized the Aargau and the Thurgau from the Habsburgs. Shared rule over these territories led to intensified interaction among the cantons, as did military efforts to expand south of the Alpine passes. Regular meetings of a diet, the Tagsatzung, began after the 1430s. Although the diet had little power to enforce its decisions, it did provide a forum for negotiation as the confederation faced new challenges. The alliance's growing power also attracted five new cantons in the late 1400s (Schaffhausen, Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel, and Appenzell) as well as a series of "associates" ranging from rural valleys to the Abbey of St. Gallen. Tensions between the urban and rural cantons led to a 1481 agreement, mediated by Switzerland's later patron saint, Niklaus von der Flüe (14171487), that guaranteed each canton's internal autonomy and provided for mutual support in case of social turmoil.

In the late 1400s, a national mythology of liberty and community emerged in Switzerland, centered on the figure of William Tell. In songs, chronicles, popular dramas, and stained-glass decorations the Swiss celebrated how they had expelled their corrupt lords during the 1300s. Often bitterly critical of aristocracy, the liberation sagas praised peasant liberty and virtues and expressed loyalty to the empire. No historical evidence supports Tell's existence, nor did Swiss calls for peasant liberty lead them to abolish serfdom among their own subjects. Nevertheless, this historical mythology reflected a growing awareness that the confederation differed fundamentally from the princely states taking shape around it.

Between 1460 and 1513, Swiss troops played an important role on Europe's battlefields. Unbeatable during the Burgundian Wars (14741477), they were in high demand as mercenaries during the Italian Wars (14941559). In the Swabian War of 1499, a string of Swiss military victories ended Habsburg ambitions south of the Rhine and brought outlying regions such as Graubünden and the Valais closer to the confederation. The Peace of Basel in 1501 also confirmed that the Swiss were exempt from most imperial laws and courts. Military and political developments after 1500 soon reduced Switzerland's international importance, however, even as long-term treaties with France and the Habsburgs stabilized Switzerland's place in the international system. After 1530, moreover, the Swiss split into Catholic and Reformed parties that threatened to tear the confederation apart. From the 1520s until 1798, therefore, Swiss politics were dominated by internal social and religious conflict, while the confederation withdrew from foreign entanglements. Although tempted to help coreligionists on both sides, the cantons managed to stay out of the Thirty Years' War, unlike their allies in Graubünden. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 formally recognized the cantons' sovereignty within the Holy Roman Empire, and neutrality became their official policy during the long wars that followedeasier to maintain because of the declining importance of Swiss mercenaries. The pre-modern confederation was finally conquered by the French in 1798.

Switzerland became an early center of the Protestant and the Radical Reformation after Huldrych Zwingli (14841531) began preaching in Zurich in 1519. Zwingli's theology rested on evangelical ideas similar to Martin Luther's, but he also stressed the reform of Christian society along communal lines, in keeping with the region's values. In the confederation, he called for an end to mercenary service and rejection of the pensions that foreign rulers paid Swiss politicians. Zwingli quickly gained adherents in many Swiss and south German towns; his ideas spread to Bern, Basel, and Schaffhausen during the 1520s, and gained support in many allied towns and rural areas. Some of Zwingli's associates sought even deeper changes in church and society, laying the groundwork for the early Anabaptist movement. However, the rural cantons in central Switzerland, together with Lucerne, opposed the Reformation. The population there valued the old ceremonies and had confidence in their locally appointed clergy, while their magistrates resented Zwingli's attacks on a main source of their income, foreign pensions.

Zwingli's efforts to evangelize the subject territories provoked rising tensions within the confederation. Civil war was delayed by a 1529 religious peace, but finally broke out in 1531. Lukewarm support from its allies led to Zurich's defeat at the Battle of Kappel, where Zwingli lost his life. The Second Religious Peace of Kappel in 1531 created a lasting framework for religious coexistence. The thirteen ruling cantons and their self-governing allies could choose between Catholic and Reformed adherence; in the subject territories, existing Reformed congregations were tolerated although Catholic worship was often restored. Ultimately, four cantons and two half-cantons became Reformed, while seven and two halves remained Catholic. The close coexistence between two faiths that followed produced endless wrangling that sometimes threatened the confederation's survival. In 1656 and 1712, local conflicts led to significant religious wars. The first preserved the status quo of 1531, but a Reformed victory in the second increased Zurich and Bern's influence.

Religious struggles coincided with growing social tensions in Switzerland. In both cities and countryside, a minority of families increasingly monopolized wealth and political participation. Oligarchy was most visible in the cities, where ever fewer families qualified to sit in the city councils. City authorities also eroded the autonomy of peasant communes under their lordship, despite occasionally violent resistance. In the countryside, high citizenship fees barred many residents from voting or using communal economic resources. In 1653, peasants around Lucerne and Bern rose up against urban domination, calling for a new "peasant's league" to combat their rulers. The urban elites in Reformed Zurich and Bern and Catholic Lucerne cooperated fully in suppressing the peasant movement.


Swiss thinkers absorbed the main intellectual movements of early modern Europe. Renaissance humanism appeared late in the 1400s. Authors such as Albrecht von Bonstetten (c. 14421504) and Felix Hemmerli (c. 13881458) described the confederation's political system by mixing humanist-style historiography with the region's rich chronicle tradition, while later Swiss humanists such as the two Glarus scholars Heinrich Loriti ("Glareanus," 14841563) and Aegidius Tschudi (15051572) wrote polished Latin treatises based on classical sources. Meanwhile, the confluence of Basel's thriving printing industry, its university, and the city's trade links made it the only canton where humanism really flourished, as illustrated by Erasmus of Rotterdam's choice to live there.

The Reformation disrupted the confederation politically and forced thinkers and artists to choose between the faiths. In St. Gallen, the well-known humanist and physician Joachim Watt ("Vadianus," 14841551) returned home to lead the local Reformation, while the painter and playwright Niklaus Manuel (c. 14841530) of Bern dedicated his work to the cause. In Basel, the Reformation divided the humanists after the city turned Protestant in 1528. Both Erasmus and Glareanus chose to leave, but the city's intellectual life later benefited from learned Protestant refugees such as Sebastian Castellio (15151563). Religious questions fully occupied Swiss intellectuals by the mid-1500s as Heinrich Bullinger in Zurich and John Calvin in Geneva struggled to define Reformed Protestant doctrine. Their efforts shaped the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, and helped make Switzerland an important center for the Reformed church. English, Polish, and Hungarian scholars studied there, often in exile, while Italian dissidents escaped persecution by fleeing through Switzerland.

Increasingly rigid social and religious boundaries after 1600 stifled cultural innovation until the early 1700s, when Swiss thinkers began receiving Enlightenment ideas. Zurich authors such as Albrecht Haller (17081777) and Johann Jakob Bodmer (16981783) participated actively in the literary debates of the German Enlightenment; Genevan social philosophers such as Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui (16941748) and, above all, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (17121778) made major contributions to the French Enlightenment. The presses of French Switzerland became a major source for books banned by French censors, and French intellectuals such as Voltaire found refuge in the Vaud when threatened by the French authorities. Within Switzerland, Enlightenment ideas eventually undermined the barriers between Catholic and Reformed elites through the formation of the Helvetic Society, a forum for intellectual discussion that met annually in Bad Schinznach after 1761.


Switzerland's existence puzzled many early modern Europeans. Jean Bodin condemned it as anarchic and disorderly, while Niccolò Machiavelli saw it as a model for free and armed city-states. After Swiss troops killed and despoiled Charles the Bold of Burgundy in 1477, aristocratic thinkers encouraged criticism of the "cow-Swiss" who dared to violate the natural order of lords and subjects. In the end, however, Switzerland was less important as a model, positive or negative, than as a crossroads. Neutral, divided by religion, and fragmented politically, the Swiss Confederation offered a haven to many refugees and dissidents, most notably the founders of the Reformed movement. Even if little of what passed through seemed to rub off on the Swiss, the confederation still went through changes parallel to the ones that transformed all of early modern Europe.

See also Calvin, John ; Enlightenment ; Geneva ; Habsburg Dynasty: Austria ; Reformation, Protestant ; Thirty Years' War (16181648) ; Westphalia, Peace of (1648) ; Zwingli, Huldrych .


Bergier, Jean-François. Histoire économique de la Suisse. Paris, 1983. Authoritative synthesis of the economic history of Switzerland by an early modern specialist.

Bonjour, Edgar, H. S. Offler, and G. R. Potter. A Short History of Switzerland. Oxford, 1952. Concise introduction by a major Swiss historian, although dated.

Handbuch der Schweizer Geschichte. Zurich, 19721977. Contains substantial articles with extensive references on the late medieval period, the Renaissance and Reformation, and the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Historisches Lexikon der Schweiz. Basel, 2002. Most recent encyclopedic guide to Swiss history and biography, replacing the 1931 edition. An online edition, with articles in German, French or Italian, is available at

Mesmer, Beatix, ed. Geschichte der Schweiz, und der Schweizer. Basel, 19821983. Produced to fill the need for an up-to-date survey of Swiss history based on the best recent scholarship.

Schneider, Boris, and Francis Python, eds. Geschichtsforschung in der Schweiz: Bilanz und Perspektiven1991. Basel, 1992. Critical review of Swiss history writing, produced in the wake of the controversial seventh centennial of 1291.

Sablonier, Roger. "The Swiss Confederation." In The New Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. 7, c. 1415c. 1500, edited by Christopher Allmand, pp. 645670. Cambridge, U.K., 1998. Succinct comparative discussion of the politics and society of late medieval Switzerland.

Randolph C. Head

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[For material on ancient Switzerland, see the entry on the Teutons. ]

Witchcraft and Demonology

Switzerland was by no means free from the witchcraft manias of Europe. About the year 1400, there were secular trials of people accused of sorcery, malevolent magic, in the Alps region now constituting southern and western Switzerland. During the same period, the Inquisition was pursuing heretics in neighboring valleys. One of the most active secular judges was Peter of Berne (Peter von Freyerz) in Simmenthal. Jeannette Charles was arrested as a sorceress in Geneva in 1401, and after torture she admitted evoking the devil. In Basel, in 1407, various women from well-to-do families were prosecuted for alleged sorcery in love affairs. In 1423, at Nieder-Hauenstein, near Basel, an alleged witch was condemned after a peasant testified that she had ridden on a wolf.

In the Valais area in 1428, the Bishop of Sion headed early systematic persecutions involving torture by secular authorities. Some 200 alleged witches were burned. There were many more tortures and burnings throughout the fifteenth century.

The records of the judge Peter of Berne tell of a witch named Staedelin in Boltingen (Lausanne) who confessed after torture to killing seven unborn babies in one house and preventing births in cattle. Also in Lausanne, certain witches were said to have cooked and eaten their own children, and 13 children were said to have been devoured by witches in Berne. Witches confessed to killing unbaptized children and afterwards digging up the remains and boiling them, making a transmutation ointment from the flesh.

Jakob Sprenger (1436-1495), co-author with Heinrich Kramer of the infamous Malleus Maleficarum, published in the 1480s, was born in Basel (part of German-speaking Switzerland), where he grew up in a Dominican house. While his main work was in Germany, after he was established at the University of Cologne, and his writings became the handbook of the great European witchcraft persecutions, some of which occurred in Switzerland.

The Protestant movement begun in Zürich by Ulrich Zwingli (1484-1531) did not slow the prosecution of witchcraft in Switzerland, indeed, some of the Zwinglians were active propagators of the cause. Typical of such attitudes was the book Magiologia by Bartholomäus Anhorn (Basel, 1674) which endorsed the demonology of M. A. Del Rio and others. The last legally executed witch in Switzerland appears to have been Anna Göldi, who was hanged in the Protestant canton of Glarus in 1782.

Demonic Possession

A remnant of the witchcraft persecutions appeared in the nineteenth century in the form of an extraordinary outbreak of paranoia over possible demonic possession. This took place in the parish of Morzine, a beautiful valley of the Savoy near Lake Geneva, during 1860. [The following account is drawn from reports in the Cornhill Magazine, London daily journals, the Revue Spirite and an article by William Howitt titled 'The Devils of Morzine.'] Morzine was quite remote, and was seldom visited by tourists before 1860. Being shut in by high mountains, and inhabited by a simple, industrious, and pious peasantry, Morzine might have appeared to a casual visitor the very center of health, peace, and good order.

The first appearance of an abnormal visitation was the conduct of a young girl, who, once quiet, modest, and well-conducted, suddenly began to exhibit what her distressed family and friends supposed to be the symptoms of insanity. She ran about in the most singular and aimless way, climbed high trees, scaled walls, and was found perched on roofs and cornices that it seemed impossible for any creature but a squirrel to reach. She soon became wholly intractable, was given to fits of hysteria, violent laughter, passionate weeping, and general aberration from her customary modest behavior.

While her parents were anxiously seeking advice in this dilemma, another and still another of the young girl's ordinary companions were seized with the same malady. In the course of ten days, more than 50 females ranging from seven to fifty years of age were reported as having been seized in this way, and were exhibiting symptoms of the most bewildering mental aberration. The crawling, climbing, leaping, wild singing, furious swearing, and frantic behavior of these women soon found crowds of imitators. Before the tidings of this frightful affliction had passed beyond the district in which it originated, several hundred women and children, and scores of young men, were writhing under the contagion. The seizures were sudden, like the attacks. They seldom lasted long, yet they never seemed to yield to any form of treatment, whether harsh, kind, medical, religious, or persuasive.

The first symptoms of this malady do not seem to have been noted with sufficient attention to justify giving details that could be considered accurate. It was only when the number of the possessed exceeded 2,000 persons and the case attracted multitudes of curious inquirers from all parts of the Continent, that the medical men, priests, and journalists of the time began to keep and publish constant records of the progress of the situation.

One of the strangest features of the case, and the one that most constantly baffled the faculty, was the appearance of rugged health and freedom from all physical disease that distinguished this malady. As a general rule, the victims spoke in hoarse, rough tones unlike their own, used profane language, such as few of them could ever have heard, and imitated the actions of crawling, leaping, climbing animals with ghastly fidelity. Sometimes they would roll their bodies up into balls and distort their limbs beyond the power of the attendant physicians to account for or disentangle.

Many among them reportedly experienced levitation in the air, and in a few instances, the women spoke in strange tongues, manifested high conditions of exaltation, described glorious visions, prophesied, gave clairvoyant descriptions of absent persons and distant places, sang hymns, and preached in strains of sublime inspiration. It must be added that these instances were very rare and were only noticeable in the earlier stages of the series of events.

It is almost needless to say that the tidings of what was happening in Morzine attracted multitudes of witnesses, as well as the attention of the learned and philosophic. When the attempts of the medical faculty, the church, and the law had been tried again and again, and all had utterly failed to modify the ever-increasing horrors of this malady, Louis Napoleon, the French emperor, under whose protectorate Morzine was then governed, yielding to the representations of his advisers, actually sent out three military companies to Morzine, charged with strict orders to quell the disturbances "on the authority of the Emperor, or by force if necessary." The result of this high-handed policy was to increase tenfold the violence of the disease and to augment the number of the afflicted, including some of the soldiers themselves, who sank under the contagion they were expected to quench.

The next move of the baffled government was a spiritual one. An army of priests, headed by a venerable bishop, much beloved in his diocese, was dispatched in the company of exorcists at the suggestion of the Archbishop of Paris. This second experiment worked no better than the first. Respectable-looking groups of well-dressed men, women, and children, would pass into the churches in reverent silence and with all the appearance of health and piety, but no sooner was heard the sound of the priest's voice or the notes of the organ, than shrieks, sobbings, and frenzied cries resounded from different parts of the assembly. Anxious fathers and husbands were busy in carrying their distracted relatives into the open air, and whether in the church or the home, every attempt of a sacerdotal character seemed to arouse the mania to heights of fury before unknown.

The time came at length when the old bishop thought of a way to achieve a general victory over the diabolical adversary. He commanded that as many as possible of the afflicted should be gathered together to hear high mass, when he trusted that the solemnity of the occasion would be sufficient to defeat what he evidently believed to be the combined forces of Satan. According to William Howitt, the assemblage in question, which included at least 2,000 of the possessed and a number of spectators, recalled Milton's description of Pandemonium. Children and women were leaping over the seats and benches, clambering up the pillars, and shrieking defiance from pinnacles that scarcely admitted of a foothold for a bird.

The bishop's letter contained one remark that seems to offer a clue to these scenes of horror and madness. He stated, "When in my distress and confusion I accidentally laid my hand on the heads of these unfortunates, I found that the paroxysm instantly subsided, and that however wild and clamorous they may have been before, the parties so touched generally sunk down as it were into a swoon, or deep sleep, and woke up most commonly restored to sanity, and a sense of propriety."

The failure of episcopal influence threw the government back on the help of medical science. One Dr. Constans had published a report in which he held out hopes of a cure if his advice was strictly followed. He was commissioned to do what he could for Morzine. Armed with the powers of a dictator he returned there, and, backed by a fresh detachment of sixty soldiers, a brigade of gendarmes, and a fresh cure, he issued despotic decrees and threatened lunatic asylums and deportation for the convulsed.

He fined any person who accused others of magic, or in any way encouraged the prevalent idea of supernatural evil. He desired the curé to preach sermons against the possibility of de-monica possession, but this order could not be carried out by even the most obedient priest. The persons affected with fits were dispersed in every direction. Some were sent to asylums and hospitals, and many were simply exiled from Chablais. They were not allowed to revisit except by very special favor. Howitt notes,

"We need not point to the salient facts of our narrative, or discuss the various theories that have been invented to account for them. It is impossible not to see the resemblance of theMorzine epidemic with the demonopathy of the sixteenth century, and the history of the Jansenist and Cevennes convulsionnaires. Some of the facts we have related were often observed in the state of hypnotism, or nervous sleep, with which physicians are familiar. The hallucinations of which we have given instances are too common to astonish us. But the likeness of this epidemic to others that have been observed does not account for its symptoms."

Psychical Research and Parapsychology

As early as the mid-nineteenth century, interest in what would later be called psychical research emerged in Switzerland, one of the earliest pioneers of research into the paranormal being Maximilian Perty, who published studies on occult phenomena and Spiritualism from 1856 on. Although originally skeptical of survival of personality after death, he later became sympathetic to the concept.

Possibly the most famous Swiss psychical researcher is Theodore Flournoy (1854-1920), a psychologist at the University of Geneva who took part in the investigations of the mediumship of Eusapia Palladino. However, his enduring fame derived from his important investigation of the famous case of the medium Hélène Smith, as recorded in his book From India to the Planet Mars; A Study of a Case of Somnambulism with Glossolalia (1900).

While Flournoy operated from French-speaking Geneva, most interest in psychical research came from the German-speaking sections of the country. Other important Swiss investigators include Marc Thury (1822-1905); Eugene Bleuler of Zü-rich; Georg Sulzer (d. 1929); Karl E. Muller (1893-1969); Fanny Hoppe-Moser, who published Okkultismus, Täuschungen und Tatsachen (1935), and Spuk (1950); Guido Huber (died 1953), who published studies on survival; Gebhard Frei (1905-1967), who published a useful bibliography on the psychology of the subconscious; Peter Ringger, who founded the first parapsychological society in Switzerland and published works on parapsychology; and Friedrich A. Volman, who specialized in the literature of hauntings.

The great psychologist Carl Jung also occupies a special position for his interest in reconciling occult studies with the psychology of the subconscious. Between 1899 and 1900, he experimented with a young medium and submitted a doctoral thesis On the Psychology and Pathology of the So-Called Occult. He later cooperated in experiments in psychokinesis and materialization phenomena with famous mediums. There were a number of paranormal events in his own experience.

There are two major parapsychological societies. The Schweitzer Parapsychologische Gesellschaft Zürich was founded in 1952, with Peter Ringger as president. Six years later, his place was taken by Dr. Hans Naegeli-Osjord. The SPG organizes lecture programs in Zürich, maintains a library, and issues the periodical Parapress. It may be contacted c/o Frau N. von Muralt, Weihaldenstrasse 3, CH-8700 Kusnacht. Switzerland.

The Schweizerische Vereinigung für Parapsychologie was founded in Zürich in 1966 and organizes public lectures, discussions, and high school courses in psychical subjects. Under the presidency of Theo Locher, it has conducted investigations into a variety of parapsychological subjects, results of which are published in the biannual Bulletin für Parapsychologie. The society many be contacted at Industriestrasse 5, 2555 Brug, Zürich.


Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

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Switzerland (swĬt´sərlənd), Fr. Suisse, Ger. Schweiz, Ital. Svizzera, officially Swiss Confederation, federal republic (2005 est. pop. 7,489,000), 15,941 sq mi (41,287 sq km), central Europe. It borders on France in the west and southwest, with the Jura Mts. and the Lake of Geneva (traversed by the Rhône River) forming the frontier; in the north it is separated from Germany by the Rhine River and Lake Constance; its eastern neighbors are Austria and Liechtenstein; in the southeast and south it is divided from Italy by the Alpine crests, the Lake of Lugano, and Lago Maggiore. The federal capital is Bern, and the largest city is Zürich.

Land and People

Between the Jura and the Central Alps, which occupy the southern section (more than half) of the country, there is a long, relatively narrow plateau, crossed by the Aare River and containing the lakes of Neuchâtel and Zürich. Alpine communications are assured by numerous passes and by railroad tunnels, notably those of Lötschberg, St. Gotthard, and Simplon. Switzerland consists of 26 federated states, of which 20 are called cantons and 6 are called half cantons. The cantons are Zürich, Bern, Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Glarus, Zug, Fribourg, Solothurn, Schaffhausen, Saint Gall, the Grisons (Graubünden), Aargau, Thurgau, Ticino, Vaud, Valais, Neuchâtel, Geneva, and Jura. Of the half cantons, Obwalden and Nidwalden together form Unterwalden, Basel-Land and Basel-Stadt form Basel, and Ausser-Rhoden and Inner-Rhoden form Appenzell.

German, French, and Italian are Switzerland's major and official languages; Romansh (a Rhaeto-Roman dialect spoken in parts of the Grisons) was designated a "semiofficial" language in 1996, entitled to federal funds to help promote its continued use. German dialects (Schwyzerdütsch) are spoken by about 65% of the inhabitants. French, spoken by about 18% of the population, predominates in the southwest; Italian, spoken by about 10%, is the language of Ticino, in the south. The few Romansh-speakers are in the southeast. Over 40% of the population is Roman Catholic and 35% is Protestant; there is a small Muslim minority, and 11% of the people professes no religion. Although the country absorbed many foreign industrial workers after World War II, especially from Italy, social tensions in the late 20th cent. led the government to restrict immigration.


Switzerland has a highly successful market economy based on international trade and banking. Its standards of living, worker productivity, quality of education, and health care are higher than any other European country. Inflation is low, and unemployment is negligible. The economy is heavily dependent on foreign guest workers, who represent approximately 20% of the labor force. Agriculture employs less than 5% of the population, and since only 10% of the land is arable, the primary agricultural products are cattle and dairy goods (especially cheeses); grains, fruits, and vegetables are also grown, and there is a large chocolate-processing industry. Mineral resources are scarce, and most raw materials and many food products must be imported. Tourism adds significantly to the economy. Electricity is generated chiefly from hydroelectrical and nuclear power sources.

Switzerland has a worldwide reputation for the high quality of its export manufactures, which include machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, and diverse high-tech products. Centered in Basel, the chemical-pharmaceutical industry exports around the globe. Due to its central location in Europe and the stability of its politics and currency, Switzerland has become one of the world's most important financial centers. The banking, insurance, shipping, and freighting industries accommodate the enormous amount of international trade going through Switzerland. Banking has also benefited secrecy laws, which have led wealthy foreigners to evade taxes by hiding assets with Swiss banks. In recent years, however, that secrecy reduced as a result of pressure from foreign governments seeking to prosecute tax cheats. Imports include manufactured goods, vehicles, and clothing and textiles. Its most important trading partners are Germany, Italy, France, the United States, and Great Britain.


Switzerland is a confederation governed under the constitution of 1874 as revised in 1998. The president, who is both head of state and head of government, is elected annually by the legislature. The cabinet, or Federal Council, is the main executive body; it is composed of seven members elected for four years by the legislature. The bicameral legislature, or Federal Assembly, consists of the 46-seat Council of States, with two members from each canton and one from each half canton, and the 200-seat National Council, whose members are popularly elected. All legislators serve four-year terms. Switzerland frequently employs the referendum as well as the popular initiative to achieve political change. Switzerland's 20 cantons and 6 half cantons remain sovereign in many respects; cantonal constitutions differ widely. In Unterwalden, Glarus, and Appenzell the entire electorate legislates directly in yearly outdoor meetings called Landsgemeinden; elsewhere a unicameral legislative council and an elected executive council are common.


Emergence of the Swiss Nation

In 58 BC the Helvetii who inhabited the country (see Helvetia) were conquered by the Romans. Invaded (5th cent. AD) by the Alemanni and by the Burgundii, the area passed to the Franks in the 6th cent. Divided (9th cent.) between Swabia and Transjurane Burgundy, it was united (1033) under the Holy Roman Empire. The expanding feudal houses, notably Zähringen and Kyburg, were supplanted (13th cent.) by the houses of Hapsburg and of Savoy. Hapsburg encroachments on the privileges of the three mountainous localities of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden resulted in the conclusion (1291) of a defensive league among them. The legendary hero of this event is William Tell. The league triumphed at Morgarten (1315) and, joined by Lucerne, Zürich, Zug, Glarus, and Bern, decisively defeated the Hapsburgs at Sempach (1386) and Näfels (1388).

In the 15th cent. the Swiss league rose to the first rank as a military power. The conquest of Aargau, Thurgau, and the valleys of Ticino, which were ruled as subject territories until 1798, was followed by Swiss victories over Charles the Bold of Burgundy (1476–77) and over Emperor Maximilian I, who in 1499 granted Switzerland virtual independence. By 1513, the admission to the confederation of Fribourg, Solothurn, Basel, Schaffhausen, and Appenzell had raised the number of cantons to 13, and this number was maintained until 1798. The conquest by Bern of Vaud from Savoy (1536), and close alliances with the Grisons, Geneva, St. Gall, and other towns and regions, further increased the Swiss orbit, but Switzerland's importance as a European power was broken in 1515 when the French defeated the Swiss at Marignano (see also Italian Wars).

A "perpetual alliance" with France (1516) and neutrality became the basis of Swiss policy. Swiss mercenaries, however, continued to serve abroad for three centuries (see Swiss Guards). The cantons, loosely bound by a federal diet and by individual treaties and often torn by internal feuds, were seriously split by the Reformation, preached by Zwingli at Zürich and by Calvin at Geneva. The Catholics, led by the Four Forest Cantons, defeated the Protestants in battle; the Treaty of Kappel (1531) preserved Catholicism in Lucerne, Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Zug, Fribourg, and Solothurn. National unity almost disappeared for more than two centuries, but religious divisions did not prevent the Swiss (except the Grisons) from remaining neutral throughout the Thirty Years War. Switzerland was an island of prosperity when, in 1648, at the end of the war, its formal independence was recognized in the Peace of Westphalia.

Internal Conflict and Consolidation

In the following century and a half, government in many cantons became the exclusive business of a small oligarchy. While Switzerland became insignificant politically in the 18th cent., its wealth steadily increased, and its scientists and writers (von Haller, von Mühler, Pestalozzi, Rousseau) made it an intellectual center. The Swiss oligarchies strongly opposed the French Revolution. Invading French armies established the Helvetic Republic (1798–1803) and in 1799 clashed with Austrian and Russian forces. Napoleon's Act of Mediation (1803) partially restored the old confederation, and, at the Congress of Vienna, the Pact of Restoration (1815) substantially reestablished the old regime, except that the confirmation of nine new cantons brought the total to its present number.

By the Treaty of Paris (1815), Swiss neutrality was guaranteed for all time. A subsequent economic depression, which caused large-scale emigration to North and South America, and generally reactionary rule contributed to widely successful demands for revision of the cantonal constitutions and the rise of the Radical party, which favored greater centralization. Opposition to centralization centered in the Catholic rural cantons, which in 1845 formed the Sonderbund, a defensive alliance. After a brief and almost bloodless civil war (1847) the victorious Radicals transformed the confederation into one federal state under a new constitution adopted in 1848 (and recast in 1874). National unity grew, and much socialist legislation (such as railroad nationalization and social insurance) was enacted.

Armed neutrality was maintained throughout World Wars I and II. Switzerland was a member of the League of Nations, and although it has long participated in many activities of the United Nations, it did not become a UN member until 2002 for fear that its neutrality would be compromised. From 1959 Switzerland was governed by a four-party coalition that began as a center-right coalition and subsequently became a broader grouping. Also in 1959 Switzerland became a member of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA); in 1972 it signed an industrial free-trade agreement with the European Community (EC; since 1993 the European Union).

In the 1950s, French-speaking inhabitants of the Jura region of Bern canton unsuccessfully demanded, with some violence, the creation of a Jura canton. In 1977 a constitution was accepted, and in 1979 it officially became the twenty-third canton of the Swiss Confederation. In 1971, after a referendum was passed by male voters, women were given the right to vote and be elected at the federal level; subsequently, Elisabeth Kopp of the Radical Democratic party became the first woman government minister (1984–88).

In a 1986 plebiscite, a parliamentary proposal to join the United Nations was rejected by Swiss voters. In 1992, Swiss voters also rejected participation in the European Economic Area, an EFTA-EC common market, but did approve joining the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The rejection of the European Economic Area led to negotiations that resulted in a package of accords that established closer economic links with the European Union; voters approved the agreements in 2000.

Following charges that stolen assets deposited in Swiss banks by Nazis during World War II had not been properly returned, the country's two largest banks agreed in 1998 to pay $1.25 billion to the families of Holocaust victims; the banks had been facing lawsuits in the United States and were under international political pressure. Ruth Dreifuss, Switzerland's first woman president, served in the annually rotated post during 1999. In elections in 1999, the right-wing, nationalist People's party made sizable gains; this was regarded in part as a reaction to international criticism of Switzerland's role in World War II

Despite the turn to the right, Swiss voters in 2002 approved joining the United Nations, becoming the one of the last nations to seek membership in that organization (only Vatican City is not a member). In the 2003 and 2007 elections the People's party made further gains, becoming the largest party in the national council. In 2011 the People's party again won the largest share of the vote, but it was less than in 2007. A referendum to limit immigration, which was championed by the People's party, passed by a slim margin in 2014. The implications of the referendum, which required the government to impose limits on immigration and foreigners in the workforce, were unclear, but restrictions on free movement between Switzerland and the European Union would contravene a 2000 agreement, and under 2000 accords the termination of one agreement could render all the accords null and void.


See E. Bonjour et al., Short History of Switzerland (2d ed. 1955, repr. 1985); J. L. Murray, History of Switzerland (1985); I. Robertson, Switzerland (1987); R. Wildblood, What Makes Switzerland Tick? (1988); J. E. Hilowitz, Switzerland in Perspective (1991).

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Switzerland (German-Speaking)


Switzerland was the first country, and Zurich and Geneva the first cities outside of Vienna, where psychoanalysis found a corresponding echo. From Zurich it went on to find its way into academic psychiatry, which developed modern psychodynamic psychiatry. As elsewhere, German-speaking Switzerland had its rifts and defections. Some particularities of the country helped contribute to this evolution: Switzerland is a federation of small states (cantons) professing different religions, speaking different languages, and asserting their own autonomy. Individualism and particularities, alongside tendencies toward pragmatic egalitarianism, are part of the national tradition. There are also great class differences.

The two psychiatrists from Freud's generation who paved the way for the introduction of psychoanalysis in Switzerland represent this tradition in a particular manner: Auguste Forel (1848-1931), a French-speaking Swiss who directed the Burghölzli university asylum in Zurich, and his successor from 1898, Eugen Bleuler (1857-1939). They were both close to the patients through daily contact and were socially very committed. Forel devoted a lot of time to hypnosis and sexual education, but kept his distance from psychoanalysis, while Bleuler greeted Freud's book on aphasia (1891b) with enthusiasm and recognized the global significance of Studies on Hysteria (1895d). "My personal experience with schizophrenics confirmed Freud is right, much to my surprise," he wrote in 1910, when successfully defending psychoanalysis against attacks from every quarter. His book on schizophrenia (1911) is influenced by psychoanalysis and in 1901 he encouraged his new assistant, Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961), to study The Interpretation of Dreams (1900a), which had just been published, and to apply the "test of free association" to patients suffering from dementia praecox. Psychoanalysis thus acquired new certainties and Jung met Freud in 1907. Led by Jung, a group of his young colleagues, among them Franz Riklin, Alphonse Maeder, Johann Jakob Honegger, and Ludwig Binswanger, were fired with enthusiasm for psychoanalysis. "The nucleus of the small band who were fighting for the recognition of analysis," as Freud described it (1914d), consisted of foreigners who were attracted by the worldwide reputation of Bleuler's clinic and who came there to train. This was the case of Karl Abraham, Max Eitingon, Hermann Nunberg, Johan H. W. Van Ophuijsen, Abraham A. Brill, Sabina Spielrein, and many more. The essential contribution of the Zurich group consisted of its in-depth research into the psychoses. In Jung, Freud found an expert partner who was gifted with a creative imagination and interested in the history of cultures and religions. The publication of the five volumes of the Jahrbuch between 1909 and 1913, the creation of a psychoanalytic association in Zurich in 1907 and its transformation into a regional group of the International Psychoanalytic Association (IPA), founded in 1910, were very largely due to Jung's exuberant activity.

In 1908 the Zurich pastor Oskar Pfister discovered the extent to which psychoanalysis could contribute to spiritual directorship and teaching. He became a zealous propagator, especially in teaching circles, for example with Ernst Schneider, director of a seminary, and his student Hans Zulliger in Bern, whereas theologian Paul Häberlin, a pedagogue and an influential professor of philosophy, came into contact with psychoanalysis through Ludwig Binswanger.

This whole flowering was quickly swept away by the split between Jung and Freud in 1913, when the majority of the Swiss followed Jung. The theoretical differences centered around Jung's "dilution" of the theory of the libido, but the difficulty of the Swiss in separating themselves from the outside world through principles also had a role to play in it. "Jung was Freud's great disciple who tried by diplomatic means to reconcile the world to psychoanalysis," as L. Marcuse wrote with much insight (1956).

The Swiss Psychoanalytic Society (SGPsa) was founded in Zurich on March 21, 1919, and still exists to this day. Pioneering member Oskar Pfister worked there with younger colleagues such as Emil Oberholzer and his wife Mira Gincburg, Hermann Rorschach, Hans Zulliger, and many more. What changed was the growing professionalism; candidates were progressively required to have really experienced analysis. Eminent members like Ernst Blum (Bern), Philipp Sarasin (Basel), Henri Flournoy, Charles Odier, Raymond de Saussure (Geneva), and the two Oberholzers (Zurich) had been analyzed by Freud himself. This fact had a stabilizing and unifying influence until the middle of the twentieth century. But conflict grew rapidly; it was triggered by technical questions, such as short analyses without elaboration of the transference and resistance, a technique introduced by Oskar Pfister in the heroic period.

Emil Oberholzer, the president, hit on a summary solution in 1928 by founding a new society, the Schweizerische Ärztegesellschaft für Psychoanalyse (Swiss Medical Society for Psychoanalysis), from which "lay" members, like Oskar Pfister, were automatically excluded, but also Zulliger. The IPA did not recognize his group and after a few years it had no more than a token existence.

With fewer members (forty members in 1927, five of them residents of French-speaking Switzerland, thirty-three members in 1929) the SGPsa enjoyed a peaceful existence until 1961 under the judicious presidency of Philipp Sarasin. Training requirements and conditions of membership had become stricter. The SGPsa did not have many representation activities, but some of its members were known for their publications and local actions that helped spread psychoanalysis. Basel became particularly important when Heinrich Meng moved there from Frankfurt and was appointed professor of "psychic hygiene" at the university. In a collection devoted to this subject he published not only his own works, but also important works by members of the SGPsa, for example, Rudolf Brun's General Treatise on the Neuroses in 1942 and, in 1944, Trieb und Kultur (Instinct and Culture) by Hans Christoffel, a native of Basel. This collection enabled the representatives of the different trends in the intense intellectual life of Basel to familiarize themselves with the treasures of psychoanalytic thought. The first edition of Oskar Pfister's work, Das Christentum und die Angst (Christianity and Fear) appeared in 1944.

A new split appeared after World War II with the creation of "Daseinsanalyse " ("existential analysis"; Ludwig Binswanger and Maeder Boss), an attempt to base psychoanalysis on the philosophy of Husserl and Heidegger. A few analysts, who generally remained true to Freud, found elements there, for example, Gustav Bally and Ernst Blum. Rudolf Brun, of Zurich, violently opposed his strictly biological approach to this trend. But the real split took place in Germany with Alexander Mitscherlich in relation to a clinical case (1950).

In the meantime, the next generation, the "descendants of Freud," were actively engaged with two of Brun's students: Paul Parin (born in 1916) and Fritz Morgenthaler (1919-1984). Parin (1949) appealed for greater consideration for the social criticism function of psychoanalysis, and Morgenthaler (1951) illustrated by means of a case history his virtuosity at picking up on unconscious intentions. Both of them represented a renewal of analytic thinking with the same unusual intensity and radicalism that we can also detect in their work in ethnopsychoanalysis (1963, 1971). For two decades they represented the center of gravity of psychoanalysis in German-speaking Switzerland. They were relentless guardians of the SGPsa training institute until, in the wake of May 1968, they demanded greater participation for candidates at the Zurich seminar of the SGPsa. As a result of the activism of extreme-left candidates this led, after long discussions in 1977, to the secession of the Zurich Psychoanalytic Seminar (PSZ), which declared itself autonomous and in which members became psychoanalysts upon their own authorization. For this reason, and also because an eminent group of analysts, primarily Parin and Morgenthaler, declared themselves in sympathy with the PSZ, there was a massive influx of analysts (about eight hundred participants in the eighties with a delegation at Bern and branches in Germany [cf. Luzifer-Amor, 1993]).

The SGPsa had to be reconstituted in 1977 as the Freud-Institut Zürich. The situation stabilized again, and the Basel and Bern groups, which were growing in importance, played a major role in this. One consequence of the crisis, however, is that psychoanalysis in Switzerland is, as of 2004, mainly concentrated in the French-speaking part of the country. As of 2003 lists members in the SGPsa. In 2004 there were 45 training analysts who bore the main responsibility for passing psychoanalysis along to Swiss students. Twenty-seven of them worked in Francophone Switzerland (including a few in the Italian-speaking parts); 18 worked in the German-speaking areas.

Kaspar Weber


Bleuler, Eugen (1910). Die psychoanalyse Freuds. Verteidigung und kritische Bemerkungen. Jahrbuch für psychoanalytische und psychopathologische Forschungen, 2, 623-730.

Meerwein, Fritz (1979). Reflexionen zur geschichte der Schweizerischen gesellschaft für psychoanalyse in der deutschen Schweiz. (With French translation: Réflexions sur l'histoire de la Société suisse de psychanalyse en Suisse alémanique). Bulletin de la Société suisse de psychanalySE, 9, 25-40.

Moser, Alexander (1992). Psychoanalysis in Switzerland. In Paul Kutter (Ed.), Psychoanalysis international, a guide to psychoanalysis throughout the world (Vol. 1, Europe ). Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog.

Walser, Hans H. (1976). Psychoanalyse in der Schweiz. In D. Eicke (Ed.): Die psychologie des 20. jahrhunderts (Vol. 2, pp. 1192-1218) Zürich: Kindler.

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Switzerland (French-Speaking)


Freud's ideas found their first echo in Geneva, a psychological milieu infused with scientific tradition and thus offering a more favorable reception in French-speaking Switzerland than in France. As early as 1900 Théodore Flournoy and his student and successorÉdouard Claparède, professors of psychology in the science faculty of the University of Geneva, enthusiastically welcomed these new ideas and contributed to spreading them.

The psychoanalytic movement began in French-speaking Switzerland in the 1920s when the first French-speaking psychoanalysts joined the Société suisse de psychanalyse (Swiss Psychoanalytic Society), founded in Zurich on March 24, 1919, by Emil and Mira Oberholzer and Oskar Pfister. At approximately the same time, in September 1920, physician and non-physician psychoanalysts created the Geneva Psychoanalytic Society. This short-lived society, which was never enrolled with the International Psychoanalytical Association, disappeared at the end of the 1920s.

During the first period (1919-1952), the first psychoanalysts, for example, Charles Odier and Raymond de Saussure, worked to make Freud's ideas known not only in French-speaking Switzerland but also in Paris, where they helped found the Société psychanalytique de Paris (Paris Psychoanalytic Society), the Revue française de psychanalyse, and the Conférence des psychanalystes de langue française (Conference of French-Speaking Psychoanalysts). During the 1920s contacts with Swiss German psychoanlaysts were rare, but came to be strengthened after the departure of the Oberholzer group in 1928 and under the presidency of Philipp Sarasin, who instituted the Swiss society's teaching commission. Psychoanalytic life in Geneva was initially dominated by Henri Flournoy, Charles Odier, and Raymond de Saussure, along with Charles Baudouin, who later founded his own school of psychoanalysis. Henri Flournoy (1886-1955), physician and psychoanalyst and son of Théodore Flournoy, trained with Johan H. W. Van Ophuijsen in Holland, then with Freud and Hermann Nunberg in Vienna. His teaching played an important role, and along with Odier, he introduced training analysis to French-speaking Switzerland. Odier set up in Paris in 1922, and Saussure followed suit in 1937. Marguerite A. Sechehaye (1887-1964) developed symbolic realization, a method of psychoanalytic therapy for schizophrenics.

Prior to the Second World War, psychoanalysis began to spread through French-speaking Switzerland outside of Geneva. In the Valais canton its development was linked to Dr. André Repond (1886-1973), director of the Hôpital de Malévoz psychiatric clinic, as well as Dr. Norbert Benoziglio and Germaine Guex, who helped create the first psychoanalytically informed medical-psychological consultations. The outbreak of World War II saw the return of Odier to Switzerland to settle in Lausanne, whereas Saussure left for the United States in 1940, where he remained until 1952.

As soon as he returned to Geneva in 1952, Saussure gave a distinct impetus to psychoanalysis in French-speaking Switzerland by organizing training. In Geneva he was assisted by Michel Gressot, physician and psychoanalyst, then in 1956 by Marcelle Spira, a Swiss psychoanalyst trained in the Melanie Klein school in Argentina, and in Lausanne he was assisted by Germaine Guex, Marcel Roth (1911-1992), Etiennette Roch-Meyerhof (1914-1989), and Madeleine Rambert (1900-1973), child psychoanalyst. These psychoanalysts had a lasting influence by virtue of their scientific accomplishments and the training they provided for many psychoanalysts from various parts of the world. They were later joined in Geneva by Olivier Flournoy, son of Henri, who trained in Paris and the United States, and in Lausanne by René Henny, child and adult psychoanalyst and professor of child psychiatry, and by Christian Müller and Pierre-Bernard Schneider, who were psychoanalysts and directors of psychiatric institutions. René A. Spitz stayed in Geneva for six years during the 1960s and contributed to training there. Julian de Ajuriaguerra, director of the psychiatric institutions at the University of Geneva from 1959 to 1973, and René Diatkine, on regular visits from Paris, also stimulated the development of child and adult psychoanalysis. In the Tessin canton, the Swiss Italian region under the authority of the teaching commission of French-speaking Switzerland, Pier Mario Masciangelo organized psychoanalytic training from 1959 onward.

The Centre Raymond de Saussure (Raymond de Saussure Center) was inaugurated in Geneva in 1973. This equipped French-speaking Switzerland with premises specifically for psychoanalytic seminars, conferences, and a library. Prior to that, meetings were organized in university psychiatric institutions. From this point onward psychoanalysis developed considerably, particularly in Geneva, around Janice de Saussure, Raymond's wife, an active member and vice president of the International Psychoanalytical Association, as well as around Marcelle Spira, Olivier Flournoy, and Claire Degoumois. In Lausanne psychoanalysis developed around Marcel Roch,Étiennette Roch, and René Henny. In the 1990s there were too many French-speaking Swiss training analysts to mantion them all, yet it may be helpful to cite those who have made names for themselves through their psychoanalytic publications. Some of them practice as psychoanalysts while occupying positions in university psychiatric institutions for adults, like André Haynal and Antonio Andreoli; in institutions for children, like Bertrand Cramer, Juan Manzano, and Paco Palacio; and in institutions for adolescents, like François Ladame. Others engage mainly in private psychoanalytic practice, like Georges Abraham, Graziella Nicolaïdis, Nicos Nicolaïdis, Danièle Quinidoz, and Jean-Michel Quinodoz, all based in Geneva. Pyschoanalysis in Switzerland is characterized by pluralism, a fact reflected in the variety of schools of thought, French-speaking psychoanalysts being influenced by French psychoanalysis, as well as British, mainly Kleinian, psychoanalysis, and German-speaking analysts being influenced mainly by ego psychology.

Psychoanalytic institutions have adopted a federalist structure that reflects Swiss trilingualism (German, French, and Italian) and its cultural diversity. For this reason the activities of psychoanalysts in French-speaking Switzerland are centered around institutions that are both national (monthly meetings of the Société suisse de psychanalyse with simultaneous translations, generally held in Berne) and regional (meetings in the Centre Raymond de Saussure in Geneva). Daisy de Saugy, historian and psychoanalyst, is responsible for keeping the archives.

The entirely bilingual German-French Bulletin de la Société suisse de psychanalyse appeared from 1965 to 1969 and then appeared regularly twice a year from 1979 onward.

In French-speaking Switzerland other trends now claim to represent psychoanalysis, but their practice and technique is closer to psychotherapy than to the psychoanalysis instituted by Freud. Geneva has a Charles Baudouin center for psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, as well as a Jungian group, and a Freudian study group unites Lacanians around Mario and Mireille Cifali in Geneva and around François Ansermet in Lausanne. This group has published the journal Le BlocNotes de la psychanalyse since 1980.

Jean-Michel Quinodoz


Ellenberger, Henri F. (1952). La psychiatrie suisse.Évolution psychiatrique, 17, 139-158, 719-723.

Meerwein, Fritz. (1979). Reflexionen zur geschichte der Schweizerischen gesellschaft für psychoanalyse in der deutschen Schweiz. Bulletin de la Société suisse de psychanalySE, 9, 25-40. (With French translation: Réflexions sur l'histoire de la Société suisse de psychanalyse en Suisse alémanique.)

Roch, Marcel. (1980).Á propos de l'histoire de la psychanalyse en Suisse romande. Bulletin de la Société suisse de psychanalySE, 10, 17-30.

Saussure, Raymond de. (1967-1968). L'histoire de la psychanalyse en Suisse romande. Bulletin de la Société suisse de psychanalySE, 6, 1-4.

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Official name: Swiss Confederation

Area: 41,290 square kilometers (15,942 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Dufourspitze (4,634 meters/15,203 feet)

Lowest point on land: Lake Maggiore (195 meters/640 feet)

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: 1 p.m. = noon GMT

Longest distances: 348 kilometers (216 miles) from east to west; 220 kilometers (137 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 1,852 kilometers (1,151 miles) total boundary length; Austria 164 kilometers (102 miles); France 573 kilometers (356 miles); Italy 740 kilometers (460 miles); Liechtenstein 41 kilometers (25 miles); Germany 334 kilometers (208 miles)

Coastline: None

Territorial sea limits: None


Switzerland is a small, mountainous, land-locked country in Central Europe, famous for its picturesque Alpine vistas. With an area of 41,290 square kilometers (15,942 square miles), it is slightly more than twice as large as the state of New Jersey. Switzerland is a federation of twenty-six highly autonomous and culturally distinct cantons. This structure has been influenced by the geography of the country, with villages and cantons cut off from one another by high mountains or deep valleys.


Switzerland has no territories or dependencies.


Switzerland is in a climatic transitional zone, subject to Atlantic, Arctic, continental, and Mediterranean influences. In addition, there is considerable variation due to differences in altitude. The Mittelland has warm, pleasant summer temperatures between 18°C and 21°C (65°F and 70°F), while temperatures in the mountains are cooler at high elevations but hotter in the valleys. In autumn and winter, fog is common at lower elevations, while the higher altitudes enjoy dry, sunny weather. The average annual temperature in the country is 9°C (48°F). The canton of Ticino, located south of the Alps, has a Mediterranean climate. Winter lows can fall below 0°C (32°F) in any part of the country, however. The Foehn, described as the "Sahara Air," is a warm wind that blows through the Alpine valleys to the central lowlands, most often in the spring.

Rainfall increases with altitude, ranging from 53 centimeters (21 inches) in the Rhone Valley to 170 centimeters (67 inches) in the city of Lugano, located at the southern tip of Switzerland. Areas that are located near each other but have sharply contrasting elevations can also have sharp differences in rainfall. The higher the elevation, the greater percentage of the total precipitation falls in the form of snow. At Alpine elevations of greater than 3,505 meters (11,500 feet), all precipitation falls as snow.


Switzerland has three distinct geographical regions: the various branches of the Alps extending over the southern part of the country (60 percent of the country's total territory); the Jura Mountains in the northwest (10 percent of the total area); and the Mittelland in between (the remaining 30 percent).


Switzerland is landlocked.


Lakes are a striking feature of the Swiss landscape: no part of the country is farther than 15 kilometers (9 miles) from a lake. A series of picturesque lakes stretches across the northern half of the country at the edges of the Mittel-land and the subalpine region. With an area of 581 square kilometers (224 square miles), Lake Geneva is Switzerland's largest lake, while Lake Neuchâtel, with an area of 215 square kilometers (83 square miles), is the largest entirely within Swiss borders. At the far end of the Mittelland, on the German border, is Lake Constance, which is Switzerland's second-largest lake at 540 square kilometers (208 square miles).


Two of Europe's major rivers, the Rhone and the Rhine, rise in the Swiss Alps, within 32 kilometers (20 miles) of each other. The Rhone, which originates from the Rhone Glacier in the Alps near Lake Geneva, is a mostly mountainous river that cuts through numerous valleys. The Rhine is one of the most important waterways in continental Europe. Its headwaters are in the Swiss Alps (at the confluence of the Upper Rhine and Lower Rhine Rivers) from which it flows 1,391 kilometers (865 miles) to the North Sea. Of Switzerland's rivers, the Rhine has both the greatest total length as well as the greatest length within Swiss borders (375 kilometers/233 miles). Other important rivers rise in the central Alps, including the Inn, the Maggia, the Ticino, and the Aare. The Aare is the largest river entirely within Switzerland. Other rivers that help drain the Mittelland are the Sarine, the Emme, and the Reuss.


There are no deserts in Switzerland.


The topography of the Mittelland, Switzer-land's central plateau, includes slightly rolling hills, meadowlands, and winding valleys.


The Alps, the largest chain of mountains in Europe, cover three-fifths of Switzerland. The Swiss Alps are divided into different groups lengthwise by the Rhone and Rhine River Valleys and crosswise by the Reuss and Ticino River Valleys. The main subdivisions are the Bernese Alps and Pennine Alps in the west, the Lepontine Alps in the center, and the Glarus Alps and Rhaetian Alps in the east. Their mean altitude is around 1,700 meters (5,577 feet), but one hundred summits exceed 4,000 meters (13,123 feet). The Dufourspitze on the Monte Rosa Massif is Switzerland's highest peak at 4,634 meters (15,203 feet); the Matterhorn, the most famous Swiss peak, has an elevation of 4,478 meters (14,691 feet). The Alps contain more than one thousand glaciers, covering some 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles). The largest is the Aletsch Glacier, which is 24 kilometers (15 miles) long. The Alps also experience about ten thousand avalanches per year. The subalpine region on the northwest fringe of the Alps has a less complex structure than the main range. Many of its peaks reach heights of about 2,000 meters (6,562 feet).

The Jura Mountains stretch across the northwestern part of the country, from Geneva in the west to Schaffhausen and into western France. They form 257 kilometers (160 miles) of the Swiss/French border. These mountains are much lower than the Alps. Their mean altitude is 700 meters (2,296 feet), but they include some peaks that rise to around 1,600 meters (5,249 feet); the highest peak in the Swiss Jura is Mount Tendre, which reaches 1,679 meters (5,508 feet).


Switzerland has more than fifty named caves. At 165 kilometers (103 miles) in length, the Hölloch Cave system near Muotatal, in the canton of Schwyz, is the largest in Europe and the fourth-largest cavern in the world.


At a mean altitude of 580 meters (1,903 feet), the Mittelland, or Central Plateau, stretches from Lake Geneva to Lake Constance. This fertile region is the country's agricultural heartland and home to most of its population. Erosion has also created plateaus within the Jura Mountains, of which the most extensive is the Franches-Montagnes Plateau, which lies to the east of the border with France.


The Ganter Bridge at the Simplon Pass in Valais has the longest span of any bridge in Switzerland. It has a tower that is 150 meters (492 feet) high, and its main span is 174 meters (571 feet) long. The Albigna and Emosson Dams are among the most imposing in the country.


The Jurassic Period was named for the Jura Mountains, whose many fossils date to that geological era.



Lambert, Anthony J. Switzerland: Rail, Road, Lake: The Bradt Travel Guide. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2000.

Renouf, Norman. Daytrips Switzerland: 45 One Day Adventures by Rail, Car, Bus, Ferry or Cable Car. Norwalk, CT: Hastings House, 1999.

Steinberg, Jonathan. Why Switzerland? Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Web Sites

Lonely Planet: Destination Switzerland. (accessed May 7, 2003).

TRAMsoft Ambühler & Müller: Information about Switzerland. May 7, 2003).

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Schweiz (German), Suisse (French), Svizzera (Italian), Svizzra (Romansh)


Identification. Switzerland's name originates from Schwyz, one of the three founder cantons. The name Helvetia derives from a Celtic tribe called Helvetians that settled in the region in the second century b.c.

Switzerland is a federation of twenty-six states called cantons (six are considered half cantons). There are four linguistic regions: German-speaking (in the north, center, and east), French-speaking (in the west), Italian-speaking (in the south), and Romansh-speaking (a small area in the southeast). This diversity makes the question of a national culture a recurring issue.

Location and Geography. Covering 15,950 square miles (41,290 square kilometers), Switzerland is a transition point between northern and southern Europe and between Germanic and Latin cultures. The physical environment is characterized by a chain of mountains (the Jura), a densely urbanized plateau, and the Alps range, which forms a barrier to the south. The capital, Bern, is in the center of the country. It was chosen over Zurich and Lucerne because of its proximity to the French-speaking region. It is also the capital of the German-speaking canton of Bern, which includes a French-speaking district. Bern had 127,469 inhabitants in 1996, whereas Zurich, the economic capital, had 343,869.

Demography. The population in 1998 was 7,118,000; it has increased more than threefold since 1815, when the borders were established. The birthrate has been decreasing since the end of the nineteenth century, but immigration plays a major role in increasing the population. Since World War II and after a long tradition of emigration, Switzerland became an immigration destination because of its rapid economic development, and has one of the highest rates of foreigners in Europe (19.4 percent of the population in 1998). However, 37 percent of the foreigners have been in the country for more than ten years and 22 percent were born in Switzerland.

According to the 1990 census, 71.6 percent of the population lives in the German-speaking region,23.2 percent in the French-speaking region, over 4 percent in the Italian-speaking region, and just under one percent in the Romansh-speaking region.

Linguistic Affiliation. The use of the German language goes back to the early Middle Ages, when the Alamans invaded lands where Romance languages were developing. The dominance of German in Switzerland has been lessened by the bilingualism of the German-speaking region, where both standard German and Swiss German dialects are used. These dialects have a high social prestige among Swiss Germans regardless of education level or social class because they differentiate Swiss Germans from Germans. Swiss Germans often do not feel comfortable speaking standard German; they often prefer to speak French when interacting with members of the French-speaking minority.

In the French-speaking region, the original Franco-Provencal dialects have almost disappeared in favor of a standard French colored by regional accents and some lexical features.

The Italian-speaking region is bilingual, and people speak standard Italian as well as different regional dialects, although the social status of the dialects is low. More than half the Italian-speaking population living in Switzerland is not from Ticino but of Italian origin. Romansh, a Romance language of the Rhaetian group, is the only language specific to Switzerland except for two parent languages spoken in southeastern Italy. Very few people speak Romansh, and many of those people live outside the Romansh linguistic area in parts of the alpine canton of Graubünden. Cantonal and federal authorities have taken measures to preserve this language but success in the long term is threatened by the vitality of Romansh speakers.

Because the founding cantons were German-speaking, the question of multilingualism appeared only in the nineteenth century, when French-speaking cantons and the Italian-speaking Ticino joined the confederation. In 1848, the federal constitution stated, "German, French, Italian and Romansh are the national languages of Switzerland. German, French, and Italian are the official languages of the Confederation." Not until 1998 did the confederation establish a linguistic policy, reaffirming the principle of quadrilinguism (four languages) and the need to promote Romansh and Italian. Despite the cantonal differences in the educational system, all students learn at least one of the other national languages. However, multilingualism is a reality for only a minority of the population (28 percent in 1990).

Symbolism. The national symbols mirror the attempt to achieve unity while maintaining diversity. The stained-glass windows of the House of Parliament's dome show the cantonal flags brought together around the national emblem of a white cross on a red background, surrounded by the motto Unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno ("One for all, all for one"). The national flag, officially adopted in 1848, originated in the fourteenth century, as the first confederate cantons needed a common sign for recognition among their armies. The white cross on a red background comes from the flag of the canton of Schwyz, which has a red background symbolizing holy justice and a small representation of Christ on the cross at the upper left corner. Because of the ferocity of the Schwyz soldiers, their enemies used the name of this canton to designate all the confederated cantons.

After the formation of the federal state, efforts were made to promote national symbols that would strengthen a common national identity. However, the cantonal sense of identity never lost its significance and the national symbols often are considered artificial. The national day (1 August) did not become an official holiday until the end of the twentieth century. The celebration of the national day is often awkward, as very few people know the national anthem. One song served as the national anthem for a century but was criticized because of its warlike words and because its melody was identical to that of the British national anthem. This led the Federal Government to declare the "Swiss Psalm," another popular song, the official national anthem in 1961, although this did not become official until 1981.

William Tell is widely known as the national hero. He is presented as a historical figure living in central Switzerland during the fourteen century, but his existence has never been proved. After refusing to bow to the symbol of the Hapsburg power, Tell was forced to shoot an arrow at an apple placed on the head of his son. He succeeded but was arrested for rebellion. The story of William Tell is a symbol for the bravery of an alpine people who reject the authority of foreign judges and are eager for independence and freedom, perpetuating the tradition of the first "Three Swiss" who took the original oath of alliance in 1291.

Helvetia is a feminine national icon. Symbolizing the federal state bringing together the cantons, she often is represented (for example, on coins) as a reassuring middle-aged woman, an impartial mother creating harmony among her children. Helvetia appeared with the creation of the confederation in 1848. Both symbolic figures are still used: Tell for the independence and freedom of the Swiss people and Helvetia for the unity and harmony in the confederation.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The construction of the nation lasted six centuries, after the original oath in 1291, when the cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwald concluded an alliance. The different circumstances under which the cantons joined the confederation account for differences in the degree of attachment to the "nation," a term rarely used in Switzerland.

The model of a united nation was tested by the Helvetian Republic (17981803) imposed by Napoleon Bonaparte, who tried to make Switzerland a centralized nation. The republic abolished the domination of some cantons by others, all cantons became full partners in the confederation, and the first democratic parliament was established. The inadequacy of the centralized model rapidly became evident, and in 1803 Napoleon reestablished the federal organization. After the collapse of his empire in 1814, the twenty-two cantons signed a new federal pact (1815), and the neutrality of Switzerland was recognized by the European powers.

Tension among the cantons took the form of conflict between liberals and conservatives, between industrialized and rural cantons, and between Protestant and Catholic cantons. The liberals struggled for popular political rights and the creation of federal institutions that would allow Switzerland to become a modern state. The conservative cantons refused to revise the 1815 Pact, which guaranteed their sovereignty and gave them more power within the confederation than their population and economy warranted. This tension resulted in the civil war of the Sonderbund (1847), in which the seven Catholics cantons were defeated by federal troops. The constitution of the federal state provided a better means of integration for the cantons. The constitution of 1848 gave the country its present shape except for the creation of the canton of Jura, which separated from the canton of Bern in 1978.

National Identity. Switzerland is a patchwork of small regions that gradually joined the confederation not because of a shared identity but because the confederation appeared to guarantee their independence. The existence of a national identity that would transcend cantonal, linguistic, and religious differences is still debated. There has been oscillation between a self-satisfied discourse about a blessed people that considers itself a model for others and a self-deprecating discourse that questions the existence of the nation: The slogan "Suiza no existe," used at the Swiss pavilion at the Seville universal fair in 1992, reflects the identity crisis Switzerland faced in 1991 when it celebrated seven hundred years of existence.

A reexamination of the national image has resulted from the country's banks' treatment of Jewish funds during World War II. In 1995, public revelations started to be made about "sleeping" accounts in Swiss banks whose holders had disappeared during the Nazi genocide. Historians had already published critical analyses of the behavior of banks and the Swiss federal authorities during a period when thousands of refugees were accepted but thousands of others were sent back to probable death. The authors of these analyses were accused of denigrating their country. It took fifty years for internal maturation and the international accusations for a critical reexamination of the country's recent history to occur and it is too early to assess how this self-examination has affected the national identity. However, it probably represents the acme of a period of collective doubt that has marked the last decades of the twentieth century.

Ethnic Relations. The notion of ethnic groups is rarely used in a nation where the concept of a linguistic or cultural group is preferred. Reference to ethnicity is very rare in regard to the four national linguistic groups. Ethnicity emphasizes a sense of a common identity that is based on a shared history and shared roots transmitted from generation to generation. In Switzerland, membership in a linguistic group depends as much on the establishment in a linguistically defined territory as on the cultural and linguistical heritage of the individual. According to the principle of the territoriality of languages, internal migrants are forced to use the language of the new territory in their contacts with the authorities, and there are no public schools where their children can receive an education in the parents' original language. The composition of the population in the different linguistic regions is a result of a long history of intermarriage and internal migrations, and it would be difficult to determine the inhabitants' "ethnicity." In addition, many people feel that ethnic differences among the Swiss pose a threat to national unity. Even the concept of culture is looked at with distrust, and differences between regions often are presented as being only linguistic in nature.

Tensions between the linguistic, cultural, and religious groups have always generated a fear that intergroup differences would endanger the national unity. The most difficult relations are those between the German-speaking majority and the French-speaking minority. Fortunately, in Switzerland the religious dimension crosses the linguistic dimension; for example, areas of Catholic tradition exist in the German-speaking region as well as the French-speaking region. However, with the decrease in social importance of the religious dimension, the risk of focusing on the linguistic and cultural dimensions cannot be ignored.

Urbanism, Architecture and the Use of Space

Switzerland is a dense network of towns of various sizes, linked by an extensive network of public transportation and roads. There is no megalopolis, and even Zurich is a small city by international criteria. In 1990, the five main urban centers (Zurich, Basel, Geneva, Bern, Lausanne) contained only 15 percent of the population. There are strict regulations on construction, and the preservation of the architectural heritage and landscape preservation are taken very seriously.

The architectural styles of traditional regional houses have great diversity. A common neo-classical architectural style can be seen in national public and private institutions such as the railway company, the post office, and the banks.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. Regional and local culinary specialties generally are based on a traditional type of cooking, rich in calories and fat, that is more suited to outdoor activity than to a sedentary way of life. Dairy products such as butter, cream, and cheese are important parts of the diet, along with pork. More recent eating habits show a growing concern for healthy food and a growing taste for exotic food.

Basic Economy. A lack of raw materials and limited agricultural production (one-fourth of the territory is unproductive because of mountains, lakes, and rivers) caused Switzerland to develop an economy based on the transformation of imported raw materials into high-added-value finished products mainly destined for exportation. The economy is highly specialized and dependent on international trade (40 percent of the gross domestic product [GDP] in 1998). The per capita gross domestic product is the second highest among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

Land Tenure and Property. Land can be acquired and used like any other goods, but a distinction is made between agricultural and nonagricultural land to prevent the disappearance of agricultural plots. Land speculation flourished in the 1980s. In reaction to that speculation, measures have been taken to limit the free use of privately owned land. Precise land planning was established to specify the possible uses of plots. Since 1983, nonresident foreigners have faced limitations in buying land or buildings.

Commercial Activities. In the last decades of the twentieth century, the Swiss economic structure was deeply transformed. Core economic sectors such as machine production declined considerably, while the tertiary sector experienced considerable growth and became the most important employer and contributor to the economy.

Trade. The most important exported industrial products are machines and electronic instruments (28 percent of exports in 1998), chemicals (27 percent), and watches, jewelry, and precision instruments (15 percent). Due to the lack of natural resources, raw materials are an important part of the imports and are vital to industry, but Switzerland also imports all kinds of goods, from food products to cars and other equipment goods. The major trading partners are Germany, the United States, and France. Without being formally part of the European Union or the European Economic Area, economically, Switzerland is highly integrated in the European Union.

Division of Labor. In 1991, over 63 percent of the GDP consisted of services (wholesale and retail trade, restaurants and hotels, finance, insurance, real estate, and business services), over 33 percent was accounted for by industry, and 3 percent by agriculture. The historically very low unemployment rate rose to over 5 percent during the economic crisis of the 1990s with important differences between the regions and between nationals and foreigners. The economic recovery of the last years of the decade reduced the unemployment rate to 2.1 percent in the year 2000, but many workers in their fifties and workers with low qualifications have been excluded from the labor market. The level of qualification determines access to employment and thus to participation in a society that values work highly.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. In one of the wealthiest countries in the world, the richest 20 percent of the population owns 80 percent of total private assets. Yet the class structure is not particularly visible. The middle class is large and for its members, upward or downward social mobility is rather easy.

Symbols of Social Stratification. The cultural norm is for wealth to remain discreet. Too manifest a demonstration of wealth is negatively valued, but poverty is perceived as shameful, and many people hide their economic situation.

Political Life

Government. Switzerland is a "concordance democracy"in which cooperation and consensus between political, social, and economic groups is valved. Federalism ensures considerable autonomy for communes and cantons, which have their own governments and parliaments. The Federal Assembly has two chambers with equal powers: the National Council (two hundred members elected by proportional representation of the cantons) and the Council of States (forty-six members, or two per canton). Members of both chambers are elected for a four-year term. Laws are subject to referendum or obligatory referendum (for constitutional changes). The people also can submit demands by means of a "popular initiative."

The Federal Assembly elects the seven members of the executive branch, known as the Federal Council. They form a collective government with a rotating one-year presidency mainly for ceremonial tasks. Several criteria are taken into account in electing members of the Federal Council, including political party membership (since the late 1950s, the political composition follows the "magic formula," which gives two representatives to each of the three main parties and one representative to the fourth one), linguistic and cantonal origin, religious affiliation, and gender.

Leadership and Political Officials. Leadership positions can be achieved by being a militant (usually starting at the communal level) in one of the four governmental parties: FDP/PRD (Liberal-Radicals), CVP/PDC (Christian Democrats), SPS/PSS (Social Democrats), and SVP/UDC (a former farmers' party but since 1971 the Swiss People's Party in the German-speaking region and the Democratic Union of the Center in the French-speaking region). Contact with political officials can be relatively easy, but a cultural norm states that well-known persons should be left in peace. The numerous activities of a highly participatory society are considered more appropriate opportunities to meet political officials.

Social Problems and Control. Civil and criminal law are powers of the confederation, while legal procedure and the administration of justice are cantonal responsibilities. Each canton has its own police system and the powers of the federal police are limited. Fighting modern crime such as money laundering revealed the inadequacy of those fragmented justice and police systems, and reforms are under way to develop coordination among the cantons and give more authority to the Confederation.

Switzerland is safe, with a low rate of homicide. The most common crimes are infractions of the traffic code, infractions of drug laws, and theft. The trust of the population in the judiciary system and the observance of laws are high, largely because the majority of the population lives in communities where informal social control is powerful.

Military Activity. In a neutral country, the army is purely defensive. It is a militia based on obligatory service for all men between ages eighteen and forty-two and represents for many people a unique opportunity to relate to compatriots from other linguistic regions and social classes. Therefore, the army is often considered an important factor in national identity. Since 1990, a few Swiss soldiers have been active in international conflict sites in support activities such as logistics.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

Social welfare is mainly a public system, organized at the federal level and partially financed by an insurance system involving direct contributions by residents. An exception is health coverage, which is obligatory but decentralized among hundreds of insurance companies. Federal regulation of health coverage is minimal and contributions are not proportional to one's salary. Parental leave depends on sector-based agreements between employees and unions. During the last twenty-five years, public spending for social welfare increased more rapidly than the GDP because of the economic recession and increasing unemployment, as well as the extension of the social welfare system. The aging of the population is expected to increase the pressure on social welfare in the future. Nongovernmental organizations often are subsidized and provide complementary services notably in supporting the poor.

Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Associative life ranges from the local level to the federal level. The rights of referendum and initiative foster active participation by citizens in numerous associations and movements, which are widely consulted by the political authorities. The authorities' search for a social consensus results in a kind of institutionalization of these movements, which are rapidly integrated into the social system. This gives them a chance to propagate their ideas and concerns but also results in a certain loss of pugnacity and originality.

Gender Roles and Statuses

Division of Labor by Gender. Although women's situation has improved since the 1970s, the constitutional article dealing with equality between the sexes has not been effective in many fields. The dominant model of sex roles is traditional, reserving the private sphere for women (in 1997, 90 percent of women in couples with young children were responsible for all housework) and the public sphere for men (79 percent of the men had a job, whereas the proportion was only 57 percent for women, whose jobs are often part-time). The vocational choices of women and men are still influenced by traditional conceptions of sex roles.

The Relative Status of Women and Men. Switzerland has long been a patriarchal society where women submit to the authority of their fathers and then to that of their husbands. Equal rights for women and men are relatively recent: only in 1971 was women's right to vote at the federal level established. Women are still disadvantaged in many fields: there are proportionally twice as many women as men without post-secondary education; even with a comparable level of education, women hold less important positions than do men; and with a comparable level of training, women earn less than men (26 percent less for middle and senior managers). Women's participation in political institutions also shows inequality: On the communal, cantonal, and federal levels, women represent one-third of candidates and only one-quarter of those elected.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are not arranged anymore, but there has been a persistence of endogamy in terms of social class. Binational marriages represent a growing trend. After a loss of popularity in the 1970s and 1980s, the marriage rate increased in the 1990s. Marriage frequently is preceded by a period of cohabitation. Couples get married late in life, and divorce and remarriage are common. There are no longer any dowry obligations. The possibility of a legal partnership status for homosexual couples is being investigated.

Domestic Unit. Households made of one or two persons represented only one-quarter of households in the 1920s but accounted for two-thirds in the 1990s. The extended family of the beginning of the twentieth century, with three or more generations living together, has been replaced by the nuclear family. Both parents share family responsibility. Since the 1980s, other family models have become more common, such as single-parent families and blended families in which couples form a new family with the children from their former marriages.

Inheritance. The law restricts a testator's freedom to distribute property, since a proportion of it is reserved for the legal heirs, who are difficult to disinherit. The order of precedence among legal heirs is defined by the degree of proximity of kinship. The children and the surviving spouse have priority. Children inherit equal shares.

Kin Groups. Although kin groups no longer live under the same roof, they have not lost their social function. Mutual support among kin groups is still important, especially in critical situations such as unemployment and illness. With increased life expectancy recently retired persons may take care of their parents and grandchildren simultaneously.


Infant Care. Although the second half of the twentieth century saw the appearance of fathers who take an active part in their children's education, child care is still seen mainly as the mother's responsibility. Women often face this responsibility while being professionally active, and the demand for day care centers is far beyond their availability. Customary practices teach infants both autonomy and docility. Newborns are expected to learn rapidly to sleep alone in a separate room, submitting to a schedule of feeding and sleep that is set by adults.

Child Rearing and Education. Traditional conceptions of child rearing are still strong. This often is seen as a natural process that takes place primarily in the family, especially between a child and his or her mother. Day care centers often are seen as institutions for children whose mothers are forced to work. These conceptions are still prominent in the German-speaking region and led to the rejection in 1999 of an initiative to institutionalize a generalized social insurance system for maternity. Kindergarten is not mandatory, and attendance is particularly low in the German-speaking region. In kindergarten, in the German-speaking region, play and a family-like structure are favored, whereas in those in the French-speaking region, more attention is given to the development of cognitive abilities.

Higher Education. Education and training are highly valued in a country with few natural resources. The emphasis has traditionally been on vocational training through a system of apprenticeship. The most popular areas are the clerical professions (24 percent of the apprentices) and professions in the machine industry (23 percent). Apprenticeship is more popular in the German-speaking region than in the French and Italian-speaking regions. In 1998, only 9 percent of the population age twenty-seven had an academic diploma. Education is mostly state subsidized, even if unitersity fees have been significantly increased recently. Humanities and social sciences are by far the most popular fields for study (27 percent of the diplomas), especially for women, as 40 percent of the female student population chooses these fields. Only 6 percent of the female student population studies technical sciences. Regional differences exist, with more French-speaking students attending a university.


Respect for privacy and discretion are key values in social interaction. In public spaces such as trains, strangers normally do not speak to each other. Kindness and politeness in social interaction are expected; in smaller shops, clients and vendors thank each other several times. Cultural differences between the linguistic regions include the more frequent use of titles and professional functions in the German-speaking region, and the use of a kiss rather than a handshake in the French-speaking region.


Religious Beliefs. Catholicism and Protestantism are the major religions. For centuries, Catholics were a minority, but in 1990 there were more Catholics (46 percent) than Protestants (40 percent). The proportion of people belonging to other churches has risen since 1980. The Muslim community, representing over 2 percent of the population in 1990, is the largest religious minority. The Jewish community has always been very small and experienced discrimination; in 1866, Swiss Jews received the constitutional rights held by their Christian fellow citizens.

Church attendance is decreasing, but the practice of prayer has not disappeared.

Religious Practitioners. Although the Constitution calls for separation of church and state, churches are still dependent on the state. In many cantons, pastors and priests receive salaries as civil servants, and the state collects ecclesiastical church taxes. Theses taxes are mandatory for persons who are registered as members of publicly recognized religion unless they officially resign from a church. In some cantons, the churches have sought independence from the state and are now faced with important economic difficulties.

Death and the Afterlife. In the past death was part of the social life of a community and involved a precise set of rituals, but the modern tendency has been to minimize the social visibility of death. More people die in the hospital than at home, funeral homes organize funerals, and there are no more funeral processions or mourning clothing.

Medicine and Health Care

In the twentieth century, life expectancy increased, and health expenditures have been increasing. As a consequence, the health system is confronted by the ethical dilemma of rationalizing health services. The western biomedical model is dominant among the medical authorities and most of the population, and the use of natural or complementary medicines (new alternative therapies, exotic therapies, and indigenous traditional therapies) is limited.

Secular Celebrations

Celebrations and official holidays differ from canton to canton. Common to the whole country are National Day (1 August) and New Year's Day (1 January); religious celebrations shared by Protestants and Catholics include Christmas (25 December), Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost.

The Arts and Humanities

Support for the Arts. Several institutions support cultural activities including cantons and communes, the confederation, foundations, corporations, and private donors. At the national level, this is the task of the Federal Office for Culture and Pro Helvetia, an autonomous foundation financed by the confederation. To support artists, the Federal Office for Culture is advised by experts who represent the linguistic regions and are often artists themselves. Pro Helvetia supports or organizes cultural activities in foreign countries; within the nation, it supports literary and musical work as well as cultural exchanges between linguistic regions. These interregional cultural exchanges are particularly difficult for literature, as the different regional literatures are oriented toward their same-language neighboring countries. A foundation called the ch -Stiftung, which is subsidized by the cantons, supports the translation of literary works into the other national languages.

Literature. Literature reflects the national linguistic situation: very few authors reach a national audience because of the language but also because of the cultural differences between the linguistic regions. French-speaking Swiss literature is oriented towards France, and German-speaking Swiss literature towards Germany; both are engaged in a lovehate relationship with their imposting neighbors and try to create a distinctive identity.

Graphic Arts. Switzerland possesses a rich tradition in graphic arts; several Swiss painters and graphists are internationally well-known for their work, principally for the creation of posters, banknotes, and fonts for printing (for example, Albrecht Dürer, hans Erni, Adrian Frutiger, Urs Graf, Ferdinand Hodler, and Roger Pfund).

Performance Arts. Besides the subsidized theatres (subsidized most frequently by towns), numerous partially subsidized theatres and amateur companies offer rich programs to their audiences, with both local and international productions. The history of dancing in Switzerland really started at the beginning of the twentieth century, when well-known international dancers and choreographers sought asylum in Switzerland.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The physical sciences receive a high level of funding because they are considered crucial for maintaining and strengthening the country's technological and economic position. Swiss research in physical sciences has an excellent international reputation. A growing source of concern is that many young researchers trained in Switzerland move to other countries to find better opportunities to continue their research activities or develop applications of their findings.

The situation of the social sciences is less positive as a result of low level of funding and a lack of status and public attention.


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Tania Ogay

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The people of Switzerland are called Swiss. The Swiss trace their ancestry to Germany, France, and Italy.

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