Polyglot Switzerland ‘could do better’ at federal level 

"All for one and one for all," is written inside the dome of the Swiss federal parliament, along with the cantonal coats of arms. © Keystone / Peter Klaunzer

Representation of Switzerland’s four main language communities is meeting its targets within the federal administration but could still be improved, says a study. 

This content was published on November 17, 2020 - 16:46

In the past 20 years the over-representation of German speakers has been reduced, the Centre for Democracy Studies (ZDA) said on Tuesday at a virtual press conference.  

Representation of the different linguistic communities is close to objectives for the 38,000 federal employees. It is estimated at 68.5-70.5% for German; 21.5-23.5% for French; 6.5-8.5% for Italian; and 0.5-1% for Romansh. German speakers are still slightly over-represented among senior managers, says ZDA. 

But representation is variable according to different departments. Some 60% of federal employees still work in offices where linguistic minorities are not adequately represented. The situation is improving, but multilingualism still needs more efforts, according to the report.  

‘Let’s be realistic’ 

The Constitution and the 2007 law on languages provide that Switzerland’s four linguistic groups be represented within the federal administration and that they have a right to express themselves there in their language of choice. However, the reality is still very different.  

Isabelle Moret, president of the House of Representatives and a member of the parliamentary group for linguistic plurality, welcomed the study. She said it shows “in figures what we sometimes feel in parliament but have not been able to prove”.  

Moret, who hails from French-speaking canton Vaud, says she has never heard anyone speaking Italian or Romansh in parliamentary commissions. French-speakers have it easier, “but let’s be realistic: to be sure that they have been understood, they sum up  what they have said in German”.  

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