Form of Government: Federal republic
Area: 41 291 sq km
Population: 8 482 152 inhab. (estimate 2017)
Density: 205.42 inhab./sq km
Coordinates: lat. 48° - 46° N; long. 6° - 10° E
Capital: Bern/Berne (capital) 133 759 inhab. (2017); Bern 415 500 inhab. (2016), urban agglomeration
Currency: Swiss franc (100 centimes)
Human development index: 0.939 (rank: 2)
President of the Confederation: Alain Berset (SP), since 1 January 2018
National Council: seats based on the elections of 18 October 2015: SVP/UDC (Swiss People's Party/Democratic Union of the Centre, populist, right-wing), 65; SP (Social Democratic Party), 43; FDP (The Liberals), 33; CVP (Christian Democratic People’s Party), 27; Greens, 11; GLP (Green Liberal Party), 7; BDP (Conservative Democratic Party), 7; others, 7
Internet: www.bfs.admin.ch (Ufficio federale di Statistica)
Member of Council of Europe, EBRD, EFTA, OAS observer, OECD, OSCE, UN, WTO
International license plate code CH
International dialling code 0041
Travel vaccinations requirement none
Electricity (Voltage) 230
Driving side rigth
Internet code .ch
DST duration (start-end) late March-late October
Annual average temperature (°C) Bern 8.5
Average temperature in January/July (°C) Bern -1/18
Daily sunshine hours in June/December (average) Bern 7/1
Annual average precipitation (mm) Bern 1035
Days of rainfall (annual average) Bern 129
Politics and current affairs
Negotiations with the European Union continue about adopting a treaty that regulates bilateral rapports, which should replace more than 100 industry agreements currently in effect. On 28 March 2018, for the first time, the government parties agreed on a common platform for negotiations with the EU. Switzerland aims to increase access to the European market and has accepted to contribute 1.3 billion Swiss francs to the EU’s budget in 10 years. There are many obstacles, however, including the recognition of free access in the EU of capital from the Swiss stock market and a further liberalization of the laws regarding European workers in the country.
Switzerland is bordered to the north by Germany, to the east by Austria and Liechtenstein, to the south by Italy and to the west by France.
The country is mostly mountainous. There are three large regions: the Alps, the so-called Swiss Plateau and the Jura. The Alpine section covers almost 60% of the land area and is crossed by the upper reaches of the River Rhone and the River Rhine, that the Aar, the Reuss and the Inn flow into. The River Ticino flows south into Italy. In the Pennine Alps, to the south of the Rhone, lie the massifs of Mount Rosa (4635 m), the Weisshorn and the Matterhorn; to the south of the Rhine lie the Lepontine Alps (Rheinwaldhorn, 3402 m). To the east of the Splügen Pass lie the Alps of the Graubünden (the Rhaetian Alps) with Piz Bernina (4050 m). To the north of the Rhone and the Rhine there are the Bernese Alps, with the peaks of Finsteraarhorn (4274 m) and Jungfrau. The central plateau stretches for 150 km between Lake Constance and Lake Geneva. To the northwest the land suddenly rises again in the Jura.
Switzerland (the Swiss Confederation or Confoederatio Helvetica) is a federal republic consisting of 26 states, which are known as Cantons, (apart from the half-cantons of Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft which together form the canton of Basel, the half-cantons of Ausserrhoden and Innerrhoden which together form Appenzell, and the half-cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden, forming Unterwalden), whereas the traditional division was into 23 cantons. Each state has its own assembly (Great Council) and government (State Council).
According to the Constitution of 29 May 1874, which has been modified many times, legislative power resides in the Federal Assembly, which consists of the National Council (200 members elected for a four-year term by direct suffrage) and the State Council (46 members, each canton elects two representatives, each semi-canton one representative). The Federal assembly elects the Federal Council, which has seven members responsible for government activities. From these the President of the Confederation, who has mostly representative powers, is elected every year.
Constitutional reforms approved by the 1999 referendum have added fundamental citizens’ rights (such as the right to strike) to the text of the 1874 Constitution. On 9 February 2014, a change to the Constitution was approved in a referendum to limit the number of foreigners in the country, raising questions about the country’s adhesion to the EU’s Schengen and Dublin agreements.
Switzerland is a neutral country and is not a member of any international defence organizations. Since 2001, however, the armed forces have been permitted to take part in UN peace keeping missions: the first time this happened was in 2002 when a contingent of Swiss troops was sent to Kosovo. Military service is compulsory and there are several different phases of this: 18-21 weeks of training for recruits, followed by brief refresher courses up until the age of 30.
The legal system is based on the continental one, with some common law elements. Referendums are frequently used as direct democratic tools to consult the population on federal and canton issues.
|Zürich||1 354 100||inhab.||2016|
|Population by age and gender (% - 2017)|
Foreign residents, mainly from European countries, account for 25% of the population (Italians make up the most sizeable group). Asylum applications have significantly reduced in 2017. An increasing number of Swiss citizens live abroad.
|Foreigners, total||2 125 145||units||2017|
Economic growth should remain stable at around 2%: exports are favoured by the weakening of the Swiss franc.
|Agricultural prod. index (2004-06=100)||101.49||index||2016|
|Balance of trade||30 763||M US$||2017|
|Active population||4 870 400||units||2017|
|Active population, Females||46.5||%||2017|
|Unemployment rate, Females||47.4||%||2017|
|Expenses||70 595.2||M LCU||2016|
|Revenues||71 569.6||M LCU||2016|
|Currency in circulation||593.1||BN LCU||2016|
|International reserves||811 030.7||M US$||2017|
Agriculture and forests.
Agriculture is organized on a family basis with some support from the state.
The main crops are cereals, sugar beet and potatoes. Almost a third of the land is covered by forest, from which a large amount of timber is harvested.
Livestock farming is very important, especially cattle. More than for meat, cattle are raised for their milk, which is made into butter, cheese, condensed milk and milk powder and also used in chocolate making.
|cereals, total||743.013||1000 t||2016|
|roots and tubers, total||374.3||1000 t||2016|
|beans, green||9.564||1000 t||2016|
|broad beans, dry||1.691||1000 t||2016|
|sugar beet||1 277.407||1000 t||2016|
|beans, green||1.321||1000 ha||2016|
|broad beans, dry||0.646||1000 ha||2016|
|sugar beet||19.095||1000 ha||2016|
|timber||4 459 390||m³||2016|
|cattle||1 555.396||1000 heads||2016|
|cattle and buffaloes||1 555.396||1000 heads||2016|
|pigs||1 453.602||1000 heads||2016|
|asses and mules||20.238||1000 heads||2016|
|birds||10 971||1000 heads||2016|
|crustaceans and molluscs||16||t||2016|
|freshwater fishes||1 176||t||2016|
Salt is mined at Bex (Vaud) and Rheinfelden, Schweizerhalle and Ryburg.
Energy and industry.
Almost 60% of the power produced comes from hydroelectric sources. The rest comes largely from the nuclear power stations at Mühleberg, Gösgen, Beznau (I e II) and Leibstadt; in 2017, a referendum ratified the gradual abandonment of nuclear power in favour of renewable resources.
Despite the scarcity of raw materials, Switzerland is a highly industrialized country. This can be seen in particular in the machinery sector: precision instruments are especially important (Geneva, Neuchâtel, Schaffhausen) as is electrical machinery (Baden, Oerlikon, Geneva, Basel and Bern).
Swiss watch-making is famous worldwide, and the main centres of this are at Geneva, Schaffhausen and especially in the Jura. Aluminium is the most important product of the electro-metallurgical industry (plants at Chippis, Steg and Martigny in the Valais, working with imported alumina).
The chemical and pharmaceutical industries have their headquarters at Basel; electrochemical plants are present in the Valais. For textiles, cotton manufacture is especially important (eastern Switzerland); silk processing plants are found in the cantons of Zürich and Basel.
The woollen industry is also widespread: there are important mills at Derendingen, Bürglen and Schaffhausen. Lace making is an important, high quality craft. At Emmenbrücke, Widnau-Heerbrugg, Rorschach, Steckborn, and Ems there are artificial and synthetic fibre factories.
Paper mills are concentrated in the Jura, in the Alps and in the Oberland. The rubber industry produces insulation materials and tyres (Pratteln). At Langenthal ceramics are produced.
|natural gas||25||M m³||2016|
|- hydro||37 879||M kWh||2015|
|- nuclear||22 156||M kWh||2015|
|- hydro||11 963||1000 kW||2015|
|- nuclear||3 333||1000 kW||2015|
|total net generation||64 742.58||M kWh||2015|
|total installed capacity||19 618||1000 kW||2015|
|gold, metal||2 560 000||kg||2015|
|watches and clocks||24 300 000||no.||2017|
|petrol||1 660.5||1000 t||2014|
|beer of barley||343.2||1000 t||2014|
|groundnut oil||1.2||1000 t||2014|
|cigarettes||54 348||M units||2007|
|cigars and cigarettes||54 348||M units||2007|
|chemi-mechanical pulp||113.136||1000 t||2016|
|mechanical pulp||113.136||1000 t||2016|
|cement||4 330||1000 t||2015|
|chemicals production||31 022.2||M US$||2013|
|food, beverages and tobacco production||11 136.1||M US$||2013|
Main exports (M US$ - 2017) pharmaceuticals 70 282, gold 67 923, machinery 23 730, chemicals 21 736, watches 20 234, jewels and precious stones 16 387, technical and electro-medical appliances 16 059, electrical and electronic equipment 12 238, plastics 5 098, iron and steel 4 230, perfumes and cosmetics 3 290, works of art and antiques 2 504, vehicles and parts thereof 2 430, aluminium 2 313, coffee 2 250, beverages 1 995, apparel and accessories 1 963, aircraft and parts thereof 1 952, dyes 1 939, tools and implements 1 850, electric energy 1 487, paper 1 167
Finance and banking.
The Swiss National Bank, which is independent of the federal government, acts as the central bank.
The Swiss banking system is one of the most advanced in the world. Swiss banks control a substantial share of the world market of overseas-managed assets.
Over 300 banks and financial institutions operate in Switzerland (the two largest ones are Credit Suisse and UBS). Zürich is home to the country’s largest stock exchange. Due to international pressure, Switzerland has made agreements with numerous other countries to tax non-residents. Since 2018, the automatic exchange of banking information has entered into force with EU member states and other countries.
|manufactures||91.173||% of goods exports||2016|
|food products||3.947||% of goods exports||2016|
|Germany||45 312||M US$||2017|
|United States||36 675||M US$||2017|
|Germany||55 322||M US$||2017|
|United States||21 409||M US$||2017|
Tourism. Tourism is encouraged by the excellent hotel sector and the variety of accommodation on offer; ski resorts, lakeside towns (Interlaken, Lucerne, Locarno), conference and business centres (at Lugano, Zürich and Geneva).
|Expenditures||18 849||M US$||2016|
|Number of arrivals||9 205 000||units||2016|
The country is at a juncture of important European highways and railways and is committed to strengthening its rail lines to favour the reduction of cargo traffic on the road.
In 2016, the San Gottardo tunnel (57 km) was opened, a strategically important endeavour for transporting goods by rail along the “Rotterdam-Genoa” corridor in Europe.
|Civil aviation, km flown||171 900 000||km flown||2004|
|Civil aviation, passengers carried||26 737.5||1000 units||2017|
|Broadband subscribers||454.223||per 1000 pop.||2017|
|Computers||962.4||per 1000 pop.||2008|
Social and welfare
Education and research.
In most of the cantons, education is mandatory from the age of 4-5 for 11 years, and it is divided into primary and higher levels. Education is organized by each individual Canton.
Social security and health.
There are compulsory insurance programmes for all employees. There is no national health system, but all citizens must have (private) insurance.
|Expected years of schooling||16.2||years||2015|
|Teachers, primary level||47 889||units||2014|
|Teachers, secondary level||64 975||units||2012|
|Social protection spending||39.4||% of total expenses||2016|
|Social protection spending||27.3||% of GDP||2015|
|Hospital beds||4.5||per 1000 pop.||2016|
|Physicians||4.3||per 1000 pop.||2016|
|HIV||0.3||% of adults||2013|
|Museums, visitors||15 300 000||units||2006|
|Research and development spending||3.37||% of GDP||2015|
|Access to clean fuels and technologies for cooking||100||%||2016|
|Access to electricity||100||%||2016|
|food, non-alcoholic beverages, tobacco||13.7||%||2013|