Swiss pessimistic about economic future

Seeing red: Swiss are pessimistic about their economic future Keystone

The Swiss have a gloomy economic outlook on the next ten years and expect prosperity levels to suffer, a survey has revealed.

This content was published on May 18, 2006 - 23:39

A report published by the research group GfS Zurich on Thursday said Swiss business should favour world markets rather than the European Union, which is not a guarantee of stability.

"The Swiss no longer believe in the 'ideal' of the EU," Peter Spichiger-Carlsson, the author of the study, told swissinfo. "They are scared and stuck in a negative mindset."

The poll found that only ten per cent of Swiss believed their economy would improve over the next ten years, whereas 40 per cent thought it would worsen.

Switzerland's high living standards and prosperity were also likely to suffer, according to the study, which interviewed a cross-section of the Swiss public.

"The Swiss are scared that they might have to give something away; they are trying to hold on to what they have," Spichiger-Carlsson added.

In particular, those people who are less educated and have fewer skills are thought to be the ones who would be worst affected by an extension of the free movement of people to the new European Union members.

"The Swiss have lost confidence in their economic system," he said. "They see that the economy is making progress and management is earning good money, but they still fear unemployment."


Those interviewed were generally pessimistic about relations with the EU.

Three times as many people (37 per cent) thought the Swiss economy would be weakened by joining the EU, compared with those who thought it would be strengthened (11 per cent).

"Before 1999 the EU was perceived as a motor for the Swiss economy, but since then the Swiss economy has gained speed and the EU has become less attractive," Spichiger-Carlsson said.

The survey said Swiss firms are no longer thought to be "sluggish" and are even "fairly innovative" when compared with their European competitors.

As in most western countries, there are fears that an ageing population will place growing pressure on Switzerland's economy and social security system.

Those questioned suggested reducing social security payments and increasing the retirement age rather than opening up the economy to young, skilled foreign workers.

A total of 709 people were surveyed by GfS Zurich last September – 75 per cent from German-speaking Switzerland and 25 per cent from French-speaking Switzerland.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley

In brief

Switzerland has concluded 16 bilateral treaties with the EU following voters' rejection in 1992 of membership in the European Economic Area Treaty.

The government asked for membership talks in 1992, but the request has been put on hold since.

Swiss voters endorsed the policy of bilateral accords in several nationwide ballots since 2000.

The government is due to publish its white paper on European policy by July.

The country's business community has come out in favour of maintaining the bilateral approach, while the country's 26 cantons said in a recent report that they would benefit from Swiss membership of the European Union.

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Key facts

In 2005, Swiss gross domestic product (GDP) per capita was estimated at $32,571, the tenth highest in the world.
The GDP per capita average for EU countries is $26,900.
The Swiss economy grew by 1.9% last year and is expected to grow by 2% this year.
The Swiss unemployment rate for March 2006 was 3.6% (seasonally adjusted, 3.5%).

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