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Switzerland’s Belle Époque Workers fail to profit from golden era

The period before the First World War, known as the Belle Époque, was characterised by optimism, peace, new technology and scientific discoveries.

Switzerland – as one of the most developed countries – benefitted from the boom.

People saw planes over their heads for the first time, cars on the streets, gramophones in people’s lounges. They could watch moving pictures in walk-in cinemas and electricity was installed in their homes.

One hundred years ago, Switzerland was among the most highly industrialised countries in Europe in terms of per capita production. With 1% of the continent’s population, it was responsible for 3% of the continent’s exports.

The Swiss economy was based on importing raw materials and exporting manufactured goods. It depended to a large extent on other countries for food and raw materials – with German coal making up a sizeable chunk of its energy supply.

A new upper class of rich industrialists emerged, who ordered their clothes from Paris and London and held elaborate parties. But while Swiss factory owners enjoyed a boom period, their staff suffered long working hours and low wages. (SRF Schweiz Aktuell, swissinfo.ch)

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