SWITZERLAND

MARCH 25, 2009 BY RANG WHAM
   Introduction    Switzerland Top of Page
Background:
The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. A constitution of 1848, subsequently modified in 1874, replaced the confederation with a centralized federal government. Switzerland's sovereignty and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
   Geography    Switzerland Top of Page
Location:
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates:
47 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references:
Europe
Area:
total: 41,290 sq km
land: 39,770 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries:
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
Coastline:
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
Climate:
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
Terrain:
mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources:
hydropower potential, timber, salt
Land use:
arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)
Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2003)
Total renewable water resources:
53.3 cu km (2005)
Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards:
avalanches, landslides, flash floods
Environment - current issues:
air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note:
landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps
   People    Switzerland Top of Page
Population:
7,604,467 (July 2009 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 15.6% (male 616,561/female 571,610)
15-64 years: 68.1% (male 2,609,673/female 2,567,245)
65 years and over: 16.3% (male 514,761/female 724,617) (2009 est.)
Median age:
total: 41 years
male: 40 years
female: 42 years (2008 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.276% (2009 est.)
Birth rate:
9.62 births/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Death rate:
8.54 deaths/1,000 population (2008 est.)
Net migration rate:
1.76 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.71 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2009 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.18 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.64 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.85 years
male: 78.03 years
female: 83.83 years (2009 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.45 children born/woman (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.6% (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
25,000 (2007 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
fewer than 500 (2007 est.)
Nationality:
noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss
Ethnic groups:
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
Religions:
Roman Catholic 41.8%, Protestant 35.3%, Muslim 4.3%, Orthodox 1.8%, other Christian 0.4%, other 1%, unspecified 4.3%, none 11.1% (2000 census)
Languages:
German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 20.4%, Italian (official) 6.5%, Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansch (official) 0.5%, other 2.8% (2000 census)
note: German, French, Italian, and Romansch are all national and official languages
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 15 years
male: 15 years
female: 15 years (2006)
Education expenditures:
5.8% of GDP (2005)
   Government    Switzerland Top of Page
Country name:
conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
conventional short form: Switzerland
local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German); Confederation Suisse (French); Confederazione Svizzera (Italian); Confederaziun Svizra (Romansh)
local short form: Schweiz (German); Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian); Svizra (Romansh)
Government type:
formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic
Capital:
name: Bern
geographic coordinates: 46 57 N, 7 26 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions:
26 cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; Kantone, singular - Kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich
note: 6 of the cantons - Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell-Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Nidwalden, Obwalden - are styled half cantons because they elect only one member to the Council of States and, in popular referendums where a majority of popular votes and a majority of cantonal votes are required, these six cantons only have a half vote
Independence:
1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)
National holiday:
Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)
Constitution:
revision of Constitution of 1874 approved by the Federal Parliament 18 December 1998, adopted by referendum 18 April 1999, officially entered into force 1 January 2000
Legal system:
civil law system influenced by customary law; judicial review of legislative acts, except with respect to federal decrees of general obligatory character; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction with reservations
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Hans-Rudolf MERZ (since 1 January 2009); Vice President Doris LEUTHARD (since 1 January 2009); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government representing the Federal Council; the Federal Council is the formal chief of state and head of government whose council members, rotating in one-year terms as federal president, represent the Council
head of government: President Hans-Rudolf MERZ (since 1 January 2009); Vice President Doris LEUTHARD (since 1 January 2009);
cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) elected by the Federal Assembly usually from among its members for a four-year term
elections: president and vice president elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for a one-year term (they may not serve consecutive terms); election last held on 10 December 2008 (next to be held in December 2009)
election results: Hans-Rudolf MERZ elected president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 88.5%; Doris LEUTHARD elected vice president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 87.4%
Legislative branch:
bicameral Federal Assembly or Bundesversammlung (in German), Assemblee Federale (in French), Assemblea Federale (in Italian) consists of the Council of States or Standerat (in German), Conseil des Etats (in French), Consiglio degli Stati (in Italian) (46 seats; membership consists of 2 representatives from each canton and 1 from each half canton; to serve four-year terms) and the National Council or Nationalrat (in German), Conseil National (in French), Consiglio Nazionale (in Italian) (200 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Council of States - last held in most cantons in October 2007 (each canton determines when the next election will be held); National Council - last held on 21 October 2007 (next to be held in October 2011)
election results: Council of States - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - CVP 15, FDP 12, SVP 7, SPS 9, other 3; National Council - percent of vote by party - SVP 29%, SPS 19.5%, FDP 15.6%, CVP 14.6%, Greens 9.6%, other 11.7%; seats by party - SVP 62, SPS 43, FDP 31, CVP 31, Green Party 20, other small parties 13
Judicial branch:
Federal Supreme Court (judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Green Party (Gruene Partei der Schweiz or Gruene, Parti Ecologiste Suisse or Les Verts, Partito Ecologista Svizzero or I Verdi, Partida Ecologica Svizra or La Verda) [Ueli LEUENBERGER]; Christian Democratic People's Party (Christlichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz or CVP, Parti Democrate-Chretien Suisse or PDC, Partito Democratico-Cristiano Popolare Svizzero or PDC, Partida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Christophe DARBELLAY]; Radical Free Democratic Party (Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei der Schweiz or FDP, Parti Radical-Democratique Suisse or PRD, Partitio Liberal-Radicale Svizzero or PLR) [Fulvio PELLI]; Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS, Parti Socialist Suisse or PSS, Partito Socialista Svizzero or PSS, Partida Socialdemocratica de la Svizra or PSS) [Christian LEVRAT]; Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP, Union Democratique du Centre or UDC, Unione Democratica de Centro or UDC, Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Toni BRUNNER]; and other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
NA
International organization participation:
ADB (nonregional members), AfDB (nonregional members), Australia Group, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, ESA, FAO, G-10, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICCt, ICRM, IDA, IEA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM, IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC, LAIA (observer), MIGA, MONUC, NAM (guest), NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PFP, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNOMIG, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Urs ZISWILER
chancery: 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 745-7900
FAX: [1] (202) 387-2564
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d'Affaires Leigh CARTER
embassy: Sulgeneckstrasse 19, CH-3007 Bern
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [41] (031) 357 70 11
FAX: [41] (031) 357 73 44
Flag description:
red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center that does not extend to the edges of the flag
   Economy    Switzerland Top of Page
Economy - overview:
Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP among the highest in the world. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector led by financial services and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-technology, knowledge-based prodution. The Swiss in recent years have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. Switzerland remains a safehaven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc's long-term external value. The global financial crisis and resulting economic downturn could, however, put Switzerland in a recession in 2009, particularly as global export demand stalls. Switzerland's largest banks suffered significant losses in 2008 and the country's largest bank accepted a government rescue deal in late 2008. The Swiss National Bank, beginning in October 2008, cut interest rates on several consecutive occasions, effectively instituting a zero-rate policy in a bid to boost the economy.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$309.9 billion (2008 est.)
$310 billion (2007)
$300.1 billion (2006)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$492.6 billion (2008 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
1.9% (2008 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$40,900 (2008 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 34%
services: 64.5% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
4.04 million (2008 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 3.9%
industry: 22.8%
services: 73.2% (2005)
Unemployment rate:
3% (December 2008)
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 25.9% (2000)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
33.7 (2008)
Investment (gross fixed):
21.5% of GDP (2008 est.)
Public debt:
44% of GDP (2008 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
2.4% (2008 est.)
Central bank discount rate:
2.05% (31 December 2007)
Commercial bank prime lending rate:
3.15% (31 December 2007)
Stock of money:
$207 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of quasi money:
$477.6 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Stock of domestic credit:
$864.4 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
Market value of publicly traded shares:
$1.275 trillion (31 December 2007)
Agriculture - products:
grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs
Industries:
machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance
Industrial production growth rate:
6.5% (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:
64.56 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - consumption:
58.77 billion kWh (2006 est.)
Electricity - exports:
50.2 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Electricity - imports:
48.4 billion kWh (2007 est.)
Oil - production:
3,202 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - consumption:
244,900 bbl/day (2007 est.)
Oil - exports:
9,370 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - imports:
274,900 bbl/day (2005)
Oil - proved reserves:
NA
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
3.232 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
3.232 billion cu m (2007 est.)
Natural gas - proved reserves:
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
Current account balance:
$40.81 billion (2008 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products
Exports - partners:
Germany 20.3%, US 9.7%, Italy 8.7%, France 8.4%, UK 5.1% (2007)
Imports:
$212.8 billion f.o.b. (2008 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles
Imports - partners:
Germany 32.6%, Italy 10.8%, France 9.5%, US 5.8%, Netherlands 4.6%, Austria 4.2%, UK 4.2% (2007)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$75.37 billion (2008 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.34 trillion (30 June 2007)
Stock of direct foreign investment - at home:
$333.8 billion (2008 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment - abroad:
$621.7 billion (2008 est.)
Exchange rates:
Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar - 1.0774 (2008 est.), 1.1973 (2007), 1.2539 (2006), 1.2452 (2005), 1.2435 (2004)
   Communications    Switzerland Top of Page
Telephones - main lines in use:
5 million (2007)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
8.096 million (2007)
Telephone system:
general assessment: highly developed telecommunications infrastructure with excellent domestic and international services
domestic: ranked among leading countries for fixed-line teledensity and infrastructure; mobile-cellular subscribership roughly 100 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 3, FM 106 (plus many low-power stations), shortwave 3 (2008)
Television broadcast stations:
106 (2007)
Internet country code:
.ch
Internet hosts:
3.437 million (2008)
Internet users:
4.61 million (2007)
   Transportation    Switzerland Top of Page
Airports:
65 (2007)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 42
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 12
914 to 1,523 m: 7
under 914 m: 16 (2007)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2007)
Heliports:
2 (2007)
Pipelines:
gas 1,662 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2008)
Railways:
total: 4,839 km
standard gauge: 3,561 km 1.435-m gauge (3,195 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,268 km 1.000-m gauge (1,274 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2006)
Roadways:
total: 71,298 km
paved: 71,298 km (includes 1,758 of expressways) (2006)
Waterways:
65 km (Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee) (2008)
Merchant marine:
total: 35
by type: bulk carrier 13, cargo 9, chemical tanker 6, container 6, specialized tanker 1
registered in other countries: 106 (Antigua and Barbuda 8, Bahamas 1, France 3, Italy 8, Liberia 13, Malta 20, Marshall Islands 12, Panama 25, Portugal 2, Russia 3, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 6, Singapore 2, Tonga 1, UK 1, Vanuatu 1) (2008)
Ports and terminals:
Basel
   Military    Switzerland Top of Page
Military branches:
Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) (2009)
Military service age and obligation:
19 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female military service; the Swiss Constitution states that "every Swiss male is obliged to do military service"; every Swiss male has to serve at least 260 days in the armed forces; conscripts receive 18 weeks of mandatory training, followed by seven 3-week intermittent recalls for training during the next 10 years (2008)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,852,580
females age 16-49: 1,807,667 (2008 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 16-49: 1,510,259
females age 16-49: 1,475,993 (2009 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually:
male: 48,076
female: 44,049 (2009 est.)
Military expenditures:
1% of GDP (2005 est.)
   Transnational Issues    Switzerland Top of Page
Disputes - international:
none
Illicit drugs:
a major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and nonresidents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries; transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine, Southwest Asian heroin, and Western European synthetics; domestic cannabis cultivation and limited ecstasy production

This page was last updated on 2 April 2009


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