Europe :: Switzerland
page last updated on October 28, 2009
Flag of Switzerland
Location of Switzerland
 
Map of Switzerland
Introduction ::Switzerland
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
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
47 00 N, 8 00 E
total: 41,277 sq km
country comparison to the world: 135
land: 39,997 sq km
water: 1,280 sq km
slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
0 km (landlocked)
none (landlocked)
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
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
hydropower potential, timber, salt
arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)
250 sq km (2003)
53.3 cu km (2005)
total: 2.52 cu km/yr (24%/74%/2%)
per capita: 348 cu m/yr (2002)
avalanches, landslides; flash floods
air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
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
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
7,604,467 (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
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.)
total: 41 years
male: 40 years
female: 42 years (2009 est.)
0.276% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 176
9.59 births/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 203
8.59 deaths/1,000 population (July 2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 91
1.76 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 46
urban population: 73% of total population (2008)
rate of urbanization: 0.5% annual rate of change (2005-10 est.)
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.)
total: 4.18 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 209
male: 4.64 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.68 deaths/1,000 live births (2009 est.)
total population: 80.85 years
country comparison to the world: 11
male: 78.03 years
female: 83.83 years (2009 est.)
1.45 children born/woman (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 188
0.6% (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
25,000 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 74
fewer than 500 (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
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)
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
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
total: 15 years
male: 15 years
female: 15 years (2006)
5.8% of GDP (2005)
country comparison to the world: 45
Government ::Switzerland
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)
formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic
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
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
1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)
Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)
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
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
18 years of age; universal
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%
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
Federal Supreme Court (judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly)
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
NA
ADB (nonregional member), AfDB (nonregional member), 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
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
consulate(s): Boston
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
red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center 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)
Economy ::Switzerland
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 production. 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.
$316.7 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 39
$311.7 billion (2007 est.)
$300.9 billion (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
$492.6 billion (2008 est.)
1.6% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 166
3.6% (2007 est.)
3.6% (2006 est.)
$41,800 (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 18
$41,300 (2007 est.)
$40,000 (2006 est.)
note: data are in 2008 US dollars
agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 34%
services: 64.5% (2003 est.)
4.053 million (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 88
agriculture: 3.9%
industry: 22.8%
services: 73.2% (2005)
2.6% (December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 30
2.8% (2007 est.)
NA%
lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 25.9% (2000)
33.7 (2008)
country comparison to the world: 93
33.1 (1992)
21.2% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 94
revenues: $189.8 billion
expenditures: $185.2 billion (2008 est.)
40.9% of GDP (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 54
57.2% of GDP (2004 est.)
2.4% (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 24
0.7% (2007 est.)
0.05% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 133
2.05% (31 December 2007)
NA% (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 142
3.15% (31 December 2007)
$207 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
$213.9 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$477.6 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
$450.7 billion (31 December 2007)
$864.4 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 16
$855.4 billion (31 December 2007)
$NA (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 14
$1.275 trillion (31 December 2007)
$1.213 trillion (31 December 2006)
grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs
machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments, tourism, banking, and insurance
6.5% (2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34
63.93 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 40
57.62 billion kWh (2007 est.)
country comparison to the world: 42
32.74 billion kWh (2008 est.)
31.6 billion kWh (2008 est.)
3,244 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 100
275,600 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
10,310 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 95
247,200 bbl/day (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 41
0 bbl
country comparison to the world: 128
0 cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
3.429 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 69
0 cu m (2008)
country comparison to the world: 108
3.429 billion cu m (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
0 cu m (1 January 2006 est.)
country comparison to the world: 132
$47.67 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 10
$43.95 billion (2007 est.)
$233.1 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
$200.5 billion (2007 est.)
machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products
Germany 21.2%, US 8.7%, France 8.2%, Italy 7.9%, Austria 4.5% (2008)
$213 billion (2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
$187.7 billion (2007 est.)
machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles
Germany 27.7%, US 10.6%, Italy 10.3%, France 8.4%, Russia 4.4%, UK 4% (2008)
$74.07 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 20
$75.37 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$1.305 trillion (31 December 2008)
country comparison to the world: 12
$1.565 trillion (31 December 2007)
$405.1 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 12
$365.8 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
$726.3 billion (31 December 2008 est.)
country comparison to the world: 8
$659.9 billion (31 December 2007 est.)
Swiss francs (CHF) per US dollar - 1.0774 (2008 est.), 1.1973 (2007), 1.2539 (2006), 1.2452 (2005), 1.2435 (2004)
Communications ::Switzerland
4.82 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 32
8.78 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 65
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 115 per 100 persons; extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)
AM 3, FM 106 (plus many low-power stations), shortwave 3 (2008)
106 (2007)
.ch
3.697 million (2009)
country comparison to the world: 21
5.739 million (2008)
country comparison to the world: 41
Transportation ::Switzerland
66 (2009)
country comparison to the world: 74
total: 43
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 14
914 to 1,523 m: 5
under 914 m: 17 (2009)
total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2009)
1 (2009)
gas 1,662 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2008)
total: 4,888 km
country comparison to the world: 36
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)
total: 71,298 km
country comparison to the world: 66
paved: 71,298 km (includes 1,758 of expressways) (2006)
65 km (Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee) (2008)
country comparison to the world: 103
total: 35
country comparison to the world: 82
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)
Basel
Military ::Switzerland
Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe) (2009)
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)
males age 16-49: 1,852,580
females age 16-49: 1,807,667 (2008 est.)
males age 16-49: 1,510,259
females age 16-49: 1,475,993 (2009 est.)
male: 48,076
female: 44,049 (2009 est.)
1% of GDP (2005 est.)
country comparison to the world: 139
Transnational Issues ::Switzerland
none
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