Which country is building the world’s longest railway tunnel? Which country has the hardest working employees? Which country has the longest alpine glacier – despite climate change? Switzerland, of course!
We have more to offer than just watches, chocolate and the Matterhorn. According to IMD, we are one of the most competitive countries in the world. By measure of per-capita income, we are amongst the most prosperous countries. In proportion to the number of inhabitants, we have the most Nobel Prize recipients and the second-highest number of patents. The Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Report of the WEF sounds like an advertising pamphlet. Switzerland is rich, indeed!
We possess valuable cultural sites as well as untouched landscapes, the traffic infrastructure is impeccable, the safety standards are high, our training and further education possibilities are our trademarks.
That was not always the case. As recently as the mid-19th century, many of our fellow citizens had to go to distant places to make their lives and fortune. Entire tracts of land became depopulated. In a typically Swiss manner, our present situation was won through hard work. Although geographically small, economically, we are a medium-sized world power. Since the mid-60s of the 20th century, we have been on a continuous upward trend. On a European scale, we have been enjoying a low level of unemployment and a growing gross domestic product over the past years. Nowadays, we have become the favourite country of emigration to some of our neighbours as well as a magnet for highly skilled workers. In the 21st century, we have increasingly changed from an industrial to a high-tech location.
At present, many of our companies in the fields of the pharmaceutical, chemical and biotech industries, of the energetic, ecological and medical technologies, as well as of machine construction and watchmaking are internationally at the top.
With a 4.3 per cent share in world exports of chemical and pharmaceutical products, Switzerland is the world’s sixth-largest exporting nation. We are seventh in terms of machine exports.
Switzerland is one of the world’s largest watchmakers. In terms of value, our share in the global production is 50 per cent. When it comes to luxury watches,
Switzerland’s world market share exceeds 80 per cent. We are one of the world’s most attractive financial centres. There is hardly another country with such an extensive insurance industry. Some of the world’s best known insurance companies are Swiss. In a worldwide comparison of cities, Zurich and Geneva are considered to have the highest standards of living. Swiss quality is renowned. Our trademarks are precision, high quality and reliability.
We have become an internationally recognized brand because we refrain from big, spectacular steps, we progress step by step (another Swiss characteristic), and our parliament and people sanction every step through the process of direct democracy.
We are successful because our exceptional education and professional training system, flexible labour market, excellent infrastructure, business friendly legal framework and favourable taxation are always supported by a majority of citizens.
That is the foundation for the kind of social and political stability from which our companies and the entire country derive their economic success.
Our strategy for global competitiveness is twofold. Even as a non-member of the European Union, we are closely linked to, and an indispensable part of, Europe. A large part of our income is derived from business with foreign countries. 63 per cent of our exports and 82 per cent of our imports are with the EU. Approximately half of Swiss direct investments abroad are in the EU.
Swiss businesses have invested nearly 200 billion Swiss francs in the EU, thereby creating 850,000 jobs. Our bilateralism with the EU is the basis for the success of that mutual economic relationship. It is a proven policy, continually endorsed by the Swiss people.
Despite our proximity to Europe, Switzerland must remember to be present on the world market with high-quality goods and services, particularly in the light of the important global shift of forces. This positioning is becoming increasingly difficult. We, too, are feeling growth and competition pressure from newly emerging economies. This is not only a threat, but also a great opportunity. In order to assert themselves in the global marketplace, Swiss companies must become more innovative, better and faster, and they need access to the market.
That is also why, politically, we strongly support a well-functioning and jointly shared world trade system. For the Swiss government and for our globally active companies, internationally unified or mutually recognized norms and standards are indispensable. In parallel to our involvement in the World Trade Organization (WTO), we continue to consolidate our already tightly knit network of bilateral free-trade agreements. This provides our companies with the most unimpeded market access, so as to be able to weather the rough competition and to profit most from the advantages.
It is only the combination of that active foreign trade and investment policy and of a constant effort to reform the domestic economy that makes Switzerland an attractive business location. That is why, in the past years, we have purposefully taken down outdated and obsolete structures, for example, in agriculture and government administration. We have put Switzerland on a competitiveness regimen. We are rigorously tackling the phenomenon of rising prices. We invest strongly in education and research. In short: With a comprehensive growth policy that interlinks all areas of political influence, we are making sure that Switzerland continues to be a country that offers sensible employment opportunities and a high standard of living.