Switzerland facts

Switzerland country factbook

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This indepth profile of Switzerland facts includes geography, people, government, economy and transnational issues in Switzerland.

Transnational Issues

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.

National flag
Red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the centre that does not extend to the edges of the flag; various medieval legends purport to describe the origin of the flag; a white cross used as identification for troops of the Swiss Confederation is first attested at the Battle of Laupen (1339).

Map of SwitzerlandGeography

Location: Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy.
Geographic coordinates: 47 00 N, 8 00 E
Total area: 41,277 sq km
Land area: 39,997 sq km
Water area: 1,280 sq km
Comparative area: Slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey.
Total land boundaries: 1,852 km
Border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
Coastline: 0 km (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.
Lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
Highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources: Hydropower potential, timber, salt.
Land use: Arable land 9.91 percent; permanent crops 0.58 percent; other 89.51 percent (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 percent/74 percent/2 percent); per capita 348 cu m/yr (2002)
Natural hazards: Avalanches, landslides; flash floods.
Environment issues: Air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilisers; loss of biodiversity.
Environment 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.
Note: Landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps.


Population: 7,639,961 (July 2011 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 15.2 percent (male 602,894/female 560,175), 15-64 years: 67.8 percent (male 2,612,557/female 2,569,318), 65 years and over: 17 percent (male 543,074/female 751,943) (2011 est.)
Median age: 41.7 years (male 40.6 years / female 42.8 years) (2011 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.21 percent (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 9.53 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 8.72 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.29 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Urban population: 74 percent of total population (2010)
Rate of urbanisation: 0.5 percent annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)
Sex ratio: At birth 1.054 male(s)/female; under 15 years 1.08 male(s)/female; 15-64 years 1.02 male(s)/female; 65 years and over 0.72 male(s)/female; total population 0.97 male(s)/female (2011 est.)
Infant mortality rate: Total 4.08 deaths/1,000 live births (male 4.53 deaths/1,000; live births; female 3.6 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: Total population 81.07 years (male 78.24 years; female 84.05 years) (2011 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.46 children born/woman (2011 est.)
HIV/AIDS adult prevalence rate: 0.4 percent (2007 est.)
People living with HIV/AIDS: 25,000 (2009 est.)
HIV/AIDS deaths: Fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
Nationality: Noun Swiss (singular and plural); adjective Swiss
Ethnic groups: German 65 percent, French 18 percent, Italian 10 percent, Romansch 1 percent, other 6 percent
Religions: Roman Catholic 41.8 percent, Protestant 35.3 percent, Muslim 4.3 percent, Orthodox 1.8 percent, other Christian 0.4 percent, other 1 percent, unspecified 4.3 percent, none 11.1 percent (2000 census)
Languages: German (official) 63.7 percent, French (official) 20.4 percent, Italian (official) 6.5 percent, Serbo-Croatian 1.5 percent, Albanian 1.3 percent, Portuguese 1.2 percent, Spanish 1.1 percent, English 1 percent, Romansch (official) 0.5 percent, other 2.8 percent (2000 census). Note: German, French, Italian, and Romansch are all national and official languages.
Literacy (age 15+ can read and write): 99 percent (male 99 percent; female 99 percent) (2003 est.)
School-life expectancy (primary to tertiary education): 16 years (male 16 years; female 15 years) (2008)
Education expenditures: 5.3 percent of GDP (2007)


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: Bern (geographic coordinates 46 57 N, 7 26 E); time zone UTC+1; daylight saving time (+1hr) begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October.
Administrative divisions: 26 cantons (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: Six of the cantons - Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell-Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Nidwalden, Obwalden - are refered to as 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 of the Swiss Confederation Micheline CALMY-REY (since 1 January 2011); Vice President Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF (since 1 January 2011); 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 of the Swiss Confederation Micheline CALMY-REY (since 1 January 2011); Vice President Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF (since 1 January 2011).
  • Cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) is 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 8 December 2010 (next to be held in early December 2011).
  • Election results: Micheline CALMY-REY elected president; number of Federal Assembly votes - 106 of 189; Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF elected vice president; current Vice President Eveline WIDMER-SCHLUMPF is slated to become president on 1 January 2012.

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 Popolare Democratico Svizzero or PPD, Partida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Christophe DARBELLAY]; Conservative Democratic Party (Buergerlich - Demokratische Partei der Schweiz or BDP, Parti Bourgeois Democratique Suisse or PBD, Partito Borghese Democratico Svizzero or PBD) [Hans GRUNDER]; Free Democratic Party or FDP.The Liberals (FDP.Die Liberalen, PLR.Les Liberaux-Radicaux, PLR.I Liberali) [Fulvio PELLI]; Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS, Parti Socialiste 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 di Centro or UDC, Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Toni BRUNNER]; and other minor parties.
Political pressure groups and leaders: NA
International organisation participation: ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), Australia Group, BIS, CE, CERN, EAPC, EBRD, EFTA, ESA, FAO, FATF, 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, MONUSCO, NEA, NSG, OAS (observer), OECD, OIF, OPCW, OSCE, Paris Club, PCA, PFP, Schengen Convention, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNITAR, UNMIS, UNRWA, UNTSO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US: Chief of mission: Ambassador Manuel SAGER. 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. Consulate(s): Boston.
Diplomatic representation from the US: Chief of mission: Ambassador Donald S. BEYER, Jr. Embassy: Sulgeneckstrasse 19, CH-300.7 Bern mailing address: use embassy street address telephone: [41] (031) 357 70 11 FAX: [41] (031) 357 73 44.


Overview:  Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and 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 production. The Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's, in order to enhance their international competitiveness, but some trade protectionism remains, particularly for its small agricultural sector. The global financial crisis and resulting economic downturn put Switzerland in a recession in 2009 as global export demand stalled. The Swiss National Bank during this period effectively implemented a zero-interest rate policy in a bid to boost the economy and prevent appreciation of the franc. Switzerland's economy grew by 2.7 percent in 2010, when Bern implemented a third fiscal stimulus program, but its prized banking sector has recently faced significant challenges. The country's largest banks suffered sizable losses in 2008-09, leading its largest bank to accept a government rescue deal in late 2008. Switzerland has also come under increasing pressure from individual neighboring countries, the EU, the US, and international institutions to reform its banking secrecy laws. Consequently, the government agreed to conform to OECD regulations on administrative assistance in tax matters, including tax evasion. The government has renegotiated its double taxation agreements with numerous countries, including the US, to incorporate the OECD standard, and it is working with Germany and the UK to resolve outstanding issues, particularly the possibility of imposing taxes on bank deposits held by foreigners. Parliament passed the first five double-taxation agreements, including that with the US, in March 2010. The agreement with the US awaits US Senate approval. In 2009, Swiss financial regulators ordered the country's largest bank to reveal at Washington's behest the names of US account-holders suspected of using the bank to commit tax fraud. These steps will have a lasting impact on Switzerland's long history of bank secrecy.

GDP (purchasing power parity): USD 326.5 billion (2010 est.), 318 billion (2009 est.) 324.1 billion (2008 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate): USD 522.4 billion (2010 est.)
GDP real growth rate: 2.7% (2010 est.),1.9% (2009 est.), 1.9% (2008 est.)
GDP per capita (PPP): USD 42,900 (2010 est.), 41,800 (2009 est.), 42,800 (2008 est.)
GDP composition by sector: Agriculture: 1.3 percent; Industry: 27.5 percent; Services: 71.2 percent (2010 est.)
Labour force by occupation: Agriculture 3.4 percent; Industry 23.4 percent; Services 73.2 percent (2010 est.)
Unemployment rate: 3.9 percent  (2010 est.)
Population below poverty line: 6.9 percent (2010)
Household income or consumption by percentage share: Lowest 10 percent: 7.5 percent; highest 10 percent: 19 percent (2007)
Distribution of family income (Gini index): 33.7 (2008)
Investment (gross fixed): 19.9 percent of GDP (2010 est.)
Budget: Revenues: USD188.1 billion. Expenditures: USD192.7 billion. Note: includes federal, cantonal, and municipal accounts (2011 est.)
Public debt: 38.3 percent of GDP (2010 est.)
Inflation rate (consumer prices): 0.7 percent (2010 est.); - 0.5 percent (2009 est.)
Central bank discount rate: 0.04 percent (31 December 2010); 0.05 percent (31 December 2009)
Commercial bank prime lending rate: 0.54 percent (31 December 2010); 2.75 percent (31 December 2009)
Stock of narrow money: USD 384.2 billion (31 December 2010 est.); USD 328.7 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of broad money: USD 834.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.); USD 777.8 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of domestic credit: USD 879.7 billion (30 November 2010 est.); USD 992.6 billion (31 December 2009)
Market value of publicly traded shares: USD 1.071 trillion (31 December 2009)
Agriculture products: Grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs.
Industries: Machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking and insurance.
Industrial production growth rate: 2.4 percent (2010 est.)
Electricity production: 66.5 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity consumption: 57.5 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity exports: 54.2 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Electricity imports: 52 billion kWh (2009 est.)
Oil production: 3,488 bbl/day (2009 est.)
Oil consumption: 280,000 bbl/day (2009 est.)
Oil exports: 10,680 bbl/day (2009)
Oil imports: 263,600 bbl/day (2009)
Proved oil reserves: 0 bbl (1 January 2010 est.)
Natural gas production: 0 cu m (2009 est.)
Natural gas consumption: 3.042 billion cu m (2009 est.)
Natural gas exports: 0 cu m (2009 est.)
Natural gas imports: 3.042 billion cu m (2009 est.)
Proved natural gas reserves: 0 cu m (2009 est.)
Current account balance: USD 49.35 billion (2010 est.); USD 54.01 billion (2009 est.)
Exports: USD 232.6 billion (2010 est.); USD 208.5 billion (2009 est.)
Export commodities: Machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products.
Export partners: Germany 21.2 percent, US 8.7 percent, France 8.2 percent, Italy 7.9 percent, Austria 4.5 percent (2008)
Imports: USD 213 billion (2008 est.); USD 187.7 billion (2007 est.)
Import commodities: Machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles.
Import partners: Germany 20.98 percent, US 9.09 percent, France 8.62 percent, Italy 8.08 percent, Austria 5.38 percent (2009)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold: NA (31 December 2010); USD135.3 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
External debt: USD 1.2 trillion (30 September 2010)
Stock of direct foreign investment (at home): USD 514 billion (31 December 2010 est.); USD 471.9 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Stock of direct foreign investment (abroad): USD 814.6 billion (31 December 2010 est.); USD 796.2 billion (31 December 2009 est.)
Exchange rates: Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar - 1.0429 (2010); 1.0881 (2009); 1.0774 (2008;) 1.1973 (2007); 1.2539 (2006)


Telephones - main lines in use: 4.65 million (2009)
Mobile telephones: 9.255 million (2009)
Telephone system: 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 120 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks. International: country code 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean).
Broadcast media: The publicly-owned radio and television broadcaster, Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SRG/SSR), operates 7 national television networks, 3 broadcasting in German, 2 in Italian, and 2 in French; private commercial television stations broadcast regionally and locally; television broadcasts from stations in Germany, Italy, and France are widely accessed using multi-channel cable and satellite TV services; SRG/SSR operates 18 radio stations that, along with private broadcasters, provide national to local coverage (2009).
Internet country code: .ch
Internet hosts: 4.816 million (2010)
Internet users: 6.152 million (2009)


Airports: 65 (2010)
Airports with paved runways: Total: 42. Over 3,047 m = 3;  2,438 to 3,047 m = 3; 1,524 to 2,437 m = 14; 914 to 1,523 m = 5; under 914 m = 17 (2010)
Airports with unpaved runways: Total 23; under 914 m = 23 (2010)
Heliports: 1 (2010)
Pipelines: Gas 1,662 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2009)
Railways: Total 4,888 km; standard gauge 3,397 km 1.435-m gauge (3,142 km electrified); narrow gauge 1,481 km 1.000-m gauge (1,378 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2008)
Roadways: Total 71,454 km; paved 71,454 km (includes 1,790 of expressways) (2010)
Waterways: 1,299 km (there are 1,227 km of waterways on lakes and rivers for public transport and another 65 km on the Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee used for the transport of commercial goods) (2010)
Merchant marine: Total 35. By type: bulk carrier 15, cargo 9, chemical tanker 6, container 4, petroleum tanker 1 registered in other countries: 109 (Antigua and Barbuda 7, Bahamas 2, Cayman Islands 1, France 5, Germany 1, Italy 6, Liberia 17, Luxembourg 1, Malta 14, Marshall Islands 12, NZ 2, Panama 22, Portugal 3, Russia 4, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 5, Singapore 4, Spain 1, Tonga 1, Tuvalu 1) (2010)
Ports and terminals: Basel


Military branches: Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) (2010)
Military service age and obligation: 19-26 years of age for male compulsory military service; 18 years of age for voluntary male and female 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 (2010)
Manpower available for military service: males age 16-49: 1,828,043; females age 16-49: 1,786,552 (2010 est.)
Manpower fit for military service: males age 16-49: 1,493,509; females age 16-49: 1,459,450 (2010 est.)
Manpower reaching militarily significant age annually: male: 46,562; female: 42,585 (2010 est.)

Transnational issues

International disputes: None.
Illicit drugs: A major international financial centre vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and non-residents 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.


CIA World Factbook / Expatica


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