In Switzerland, the question of foreigners immigrating to the country is a major issue. But less well known is the trend of Swiss men and women who emigrate to other countries.This content was published on February 18, 2002 - 22:41
Today, one of every ten Swiss lives abroad. And, according to a poll commissioned by swissinfo/Swiss Radio International, many Swiss citizens dream at times of emigrating.
The survey, conducted in January by the LINK Institute, shows that 45 per cent of the 2,359 people polled have considered leaving Switzerland to start a new life elsewhere. And 14 per cent named Australia as the destination of choice.
Higher quality of life
The Geneva-born Rodolphe Ehrat has made his dreams a reality. For 22 years, he has lived in Sydney, Australia, where the largest Swiss community on five continents is located.
Until 1997, Ehrat worked for Sulzer Asia/Pacific, most recently as CEO.
"In the USA I could have earned more money," Ehrat told swissinfo. "But in Australia the quality of life is higher."
Typically for a Swiss, Ehrat remained loyal to his company for 20 years. "In recent years, the development of big business has taken a lot of effort," he says. He got out, because his own work philosophy and corporate culture were becoming too complicated.
With his Australian partner he started Savant Systems Int., an information company, in Sydney. It produces intelligent databanks for different industrial purposes.
Scarcely four years after its start, Savant attained revenue at the million-franc level.
His experience is not so different from that of other Swiss expatriates. Many have attained high positions in Australia's economy. Ehrat himself sits on the board of the Australian-Swiss chamber of commerce.
"The Swiss are doing well Down Under, and they stay together," he observes.
Ehrat, who is just over 50, has had a pilot's license since 1964. As an enthusiastic pilot, he even started a small flight company in the 1980s, offering a twin-engine flight taxi service.
"In the meantime, flying has become quite complicated," Ehrat says. To continue and thrive, he would have had to hire more people, because of the stronger demands of the growing company.
Instead, the chemical engineer sold all the planes and decided to view flying only as a hobby.
by Christian Messerli in Sydney and Denise Kalette
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