Switzerland enjoys an enviable prosperity, with a GDP equal to a quarter of that of France with a population of only 8 million. It is distinguished by a record surplus in the trade balance in 2014 (33 billion CHF, about 5.5% of GDP), sound public finances (the debt ratio is 35% of GDP) despite the decline of budget surplus of the Confederation and the cantonal mastered widening deficits and a low unemployment in international comparison (4.5% on average in 2014).
Official name: Swiss Confederation
Type of government: federal state – semi-direct democracy
Head of State and / or Government: Simmonetta Sommaruga (since 1 January 2015), after Didier Burkhalter in 2014 (rotating Presidency).
Area: 41,285 km2
Capital: Bern (127,500 hab.)
Main cities: in thousands of inhabitants in 2012: Zurich (380.8), Geneva (189.0), Basel (165.6), Lausanne (130.4)
Language (s) official (s): German, French, Italian, Romansh
Language (s) Current (s): German, French, Italian
Currency: Swiss franc (CHF)
National Day: August 1
Population (in thousands): 8 237.7 (end of 2014)
Density: 201.0 km2
Population Growth: 1.2% (2014)
Life expectancy (2011): 81 years for men and 85.2 years for women
Literacy rate: 99.6%
Religion (s): Roman Catholics (38.2%), Protestants (26.9%), other Christian communities (5.7%), Jewish communities (0.3%), Islamic communities (4.9%), other (23.8%)
Human Development Index: 0.917 (3rd place)
(Sources: DGTPE, European Commission, UNDP)
GDP: 712 billion CHF in 2014
Growth Rate: 2.0% in 2013 (after + 1.0% in 2012)
Unemployment rate: 3.2% in August 2015
Inflation: -0.2% in August 2015
Budget balance: CHF 1.3 billion in 2013 (0.22% of GDP)
Trade balance: CHF 26.6 billion in 2013
Main clients (2015): Germany (19%), USA (13%), Italy (7%), France (7%), China (4%)
Major suppliers (2015): Germany (28%), Italy (10%), France (8%), China and Hong Kong (7%), USA (6%)
Exports from France to Switzerland (2015): € 12.9 billion
French imports from Switzerland (2014): € 12.5 billion
For more information: http://www.tresor.economie.gouv.fr/Pays/suisse
Consulates general of France: Geneva and Zurich
French community in Switzerland 220 000 61% of dual nationality
Swiss community in France: 130,000
The European Union is still by far the largest Swiss trading partner, with 63% of its trade. This share, declining over the last decade (it was 72% in 2004) seems to have stabilized since 2012. Meanwhile, the share of BRICS (including Hong Kong) in trade was stable at 10.5 % of total trade.
Germany remains largely the first bilateral trading partner, with 22.7%, ahead of the US (10%, up 0.9 points), Italy, China (including Hong Kong) and La France. China (including Hong Kong) now exceeds US 4th among suppliers. The European Union accounted for 73% of Swiss imports in 2014, against 81% ten years earlier.
Switzerland focuses its largest positive trade balance with the United States (16.2 billion CHF, + 19.8% compared to 2014), the UK (4 billion CHF -2.7%) and China (including Hong Kong, 2.4 billion CHF, -34.4%). Its largest deficits were registered in contrast to Germany (-11.9 bn CHF, 9.1% reduction), Ireland (-6.0 bn CHF, + 3.1%) and Italy ( CHF -3.6 billion, down 2%).
In terms of products, the Swiss trade surplus is mainly attributable to the excellent sales of watches (19.4 billion CHF) and pharmaceuticals (18 billion CHF, up 14.2%). Blood products (+ 17.2% CHF billion) completed the podium. Switzerland recorded however its largest deficits on auto jobs (-9.3 bn CHF), hydrocarbons and hardware.
The EU and Switzerland
Located in the heart of Europe, Switzerland is not a member of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA), but was a founder of the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) in 1960. It has signed agreements with the EU in 1999 ( “bilateral agreements I”) and 2004 ( “bilateral agreements II”) and the Schengen agreement in 2008. An active member of many international economic organizations (Organization Coopératuion and Economic Development, International Monetary Fund, the Basel Committee, etc.), among other hosts Switzerland in Geneva, the United Nations Office, the World Trade Organization, the International Labour Office etc.
Switzerland developed slowly over the centuries, gradually forming a mosaic of territories.
Over the centuries, cities partnering with countrymen territories, Switzerland grew gradually, before forming the current country. After a rough union of autonomous cantons, it has become a modern federal state.
In the Middle Ages, the various territories won freedoms, often by working together. They were emancipated and gradually from the tutelage of the imperial overlords that they were long vassals, at least formally.
The history of Switzerland was very marked by the Reformation and the wars and incessant skirmishes opponents Catholics and Protestants that gushed.
At the end of the eighteenth century revolutionary France occupied Switzerland and proclaimed the Helvetic Republic (1798), a centralized state on the French model. Soon, a resistance formed and fighting resumed, leading to the intervention of French troops.
In 1803, the Confederates signed with Napoleon, in Paris, the Act of Mediation. Switzerland became a confederation of 19 cantons. Read about it the swissinfo dossier.
At the Vienna Congress in 1815, the European powers guarantied to Switzerland a “perpetual neutrality”. Geneva, Valais and Neuchâtel entered on this occasion in the Swiss Confederation. The borders of modern Switzerland were well drawn – almost.
The Federal Constitution of 1848 replaced the 1815 pact, replacing the alliance of autonomous cantons by the creation of a modern federal state.
1847. The war of the Sonderbund (separatist league of seven Catholic cantons) is the last military conflict in dates on Swiss territory. “Civil War” which lasts less than a month, she opposes the Catholic League to the more liberal Protestant cantons and having proclaimed secular laws.
1848. At the end of the conflict, which will see the defeat of the Catholic cantons, the mere alliance of sovereign cantons is transformed into a federal state with a new Constitution, transferring significant powers to the central state, characterized especially by a parliament formed of both Houses. The government called “Federal Council” continues the cantons of the hands of foreign and financial policy tasks. The new constitution aims to reconcile the disparate interests of the cantons for the general good of the Confederacy.
1871. The First Vatican Council says in 1870 the dogma of papal infallibility. The result: over 400,000 Swiss leave the Roman Catholic Church and founded the Christian Catholic Church (also called Old Catholic Church).
1914-1918 and 1939 – 1945. During the two World Wars, Switzerland remains neutral.
In 1971 referendum, Swiss men agree to grant the right to vote and stand for women at the federal level. The decision is taken by 66% in favor, with a turnout of 58%.
In 1978 referendum, Swiss voters accept the creation of a new canton, the Jura. This francophone region formerly part of the canton of Bern, in German-speaking majority. The constitutional amendment, needed to form a new canton, approved after decades of tensions between separatists and anti-separatists (the independence of Jura, read articles swissinfo).
Good to know
Switzerland’s economy is based on highly skilled workers – in specialist areas such as microtechnology, hi-tech, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, as well as banking and insurance.
Switzerland is the best place in the world to be born – according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s (EIU) 2013 Quality of Life Index, a survey which takes 11 statistically significant factors into account, e.g. how happy people say they are, crime levels, trust in public institutions, climate, employment, gender equality, quality of family life and material well-being.
Swiss national holidays
New Year’s Day, 1 January
Good Friday, varies
Easter Monday, varies
Labour Day, 1 May (not a national holiday in all parts of Switzerland)
Ascension Day, varies
Whit Monday, varies
Swiss National Day, 1 August
Christmas, 25 – 26 December
The Swiss Franc (ISO 4217: CHF) is the currency of Switzerland and Lichtenstein. The Swiss National Bank issues and controls the Swiss Franc. In 2011, the Swiss National Bank set a minimum exchange rate of 1.20 francs to the euro, as the value of the franc might become a threat to the economy. In January 2015, the capping of the exchange rate ended and the franc appreciated against the euro.
In 2014, the Franc was the seventh most-held reserve currency in global reserves.
The Euro to Swiss Franc exchange rate converts at 1.1 on May the 30th, 2016
Switzerland’s climate is not all about snowy mountains – there’s no excessive heat, cold or humidity, and varies according to region. In the north, the climate is moderate, with cold winters and warm summers; temperatures drop in the mountainous east; the west has a mild climate; while in the south it’s so warm that palm trees line the shore of Lake Lugano. As a guide, expect daytime temperatures from 18–28°C (65–85°F) during July and August, in January and February -2–7°C (28-45°F) and in spring and autumn/fall 8–15°C (46–59°F).
Tobacco consumption is widespread – in 2010, 21 percent of men and 17 percent of women smoked every day. However, it is in decline due to an awareness of health risks and rising prices.
The Swiss enjoy a leisurely drink – in 2012, the Swiss downed 56.5 litres of beer and 36 litres of wine per person. A lot of the latter is homegrown – only about 2 percent of Swiss wine leaves the country.
Where to go?
CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research) is the world’s largest particle physics laboratory – based in Geneva and straddling the Swiss/French border. Physicists won the 2013 Nobel prize in physics for their work on the theory of the Higgs boson, one of the building blocks of the universe, which was finally discovered at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in 2012.
How to settle there?
To do business
Personal income tax
The income tax is charged both by the Confederation and the canton of residence.
It follows a progressive scheme which rates and thresholds depends on the marital status.
The increment will be 1 % for single taxpayers and 0,77 % for the married ones. In both cases, the maximum is 11.5 %.
The tax from the cantons varies heavily from 1.8 %, in Obwalden, to the maximum of 19% in Geneva. The average cantonal rate is 6.5 %.
Switzerland proposes very attracting “lump-sum” tax to rich foreigners residing but not working on the country.
Corporate income tax
The confederation applies a average rate of 8,5 % on the profits.
Cantonal taxes vary. Hence the effective combined rate will fluctuate between 12 and 24%.
Swiss VAT rate is 8%.
A reduced rate of 2.5 % applies on first necessity and cultural products
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