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Work takes back seat to leisure

The Swiss flock to lakes and rivers in their leisure time Keystone

For the first time in 15 years the Swiss value leisure more highly than work, according to the results of a survey published on Thursday.

This content was published on February 22, 2007 - 21:47

Nearly nine out of ten people polled said family and friends remained the most significant aspect in their lives, and did not want to work longer hours even if it meant more money.

"We have less unemployment so that's one reason for being happy with the whole work situation," said Hansruedi Müller, head of the Research Institute for Leisure and Tourism at Bern University, who commissioned the survey.

"People can choose [jobs] more freely than four years ago and can increasingly choose their working hours themselves," Müller told swissinfo.

Asked whether they would prefer longer working hours and more income or less work and more leisure, more than half of those questioned (57 per cent) said they were satisfied with their present situation and did not want to change their working hours.

Conducted by the gfs-zurich research group, the survey is part of a long-term Univox project that takes a regular sample of attitudes of people in Switzerland towards most aspects of their daily lives.

The vast majority of those polled - 88 per cent – feel that family and friends are "very important" in their lives, as is their health (81 per cent), two findings that Müller says have seen little or no change over the years.

The study comments that personal relationships have remained significant despite the apparent growth in trends emphasising greater individuality, such as single households and the popularity of the internet.

Those surveyed were also asked what they would cut down on if had SFr1,000 ($806.7) less every year.

Sport over culture

Top of the list came furnishings (84 per cent), followed by clothes and fashion (75 per cent). They were less prepared to save on sport activities (55 per cent), holidays/travelling (51 per cent), car/motorcycle (48 per cent) and further education (48 per cent).

They wanted more time for travelling or excursions, visiting friends, doing sport or simply nothing at all, the poll noted.

In fact, one in three said sport had become "very important" - an increase of 22 per cent over the previous poll.

The preference for sport apparently comes at the cost of culture, which suffered a drop in interest of 33 per cent (only 22 per cent found it "very important").

"I think this is simply a question of allocation of time. We can't do more of everything [in our lives] and when something like sport becomes more important, something else has to give," Müller commented.

"Health has become such an important topic in our society. Everyone knows that sport and health are somehow combined," he added.

But he noted that the focus in the sport question was on one's general interest, and not on active participation alone.

"We know, for example, that football has become very popular, especially last year with the World Cup finals in Germany and with the European Championships taking place [in Switzerland and Austria] in a year and a half."

swissinfo, Robert Brookes

In brief

The gfs-zurich research organisation and five partners carried out the survey in September 2006.

705 people were polled from 70 sampling points in Switzerland. Three-quarters were questioned in the German-speaking part and the remainder in the French-speaking region.

Univox is a yearly poll of a sample of around 800 persons in Switzerland regarding attitudes towards most aspects of life in the country, including politics, employment and social phenomena.

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"Very important" aspects of life

Family/Friends: 88% (no change compared with poll of 2002)
Health: 81% (+4%)
Leisure: 60% (+4%)
Work/Career: 53% (-12%)
Education: 38% (-17%)
Sport: 33% (+22%)
Culture: 22% (-33%)
Religion/Church: 12% (-25%)
Politics: 10% (-50%)

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