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Good economy doesn’t stop Swiss from worrying


Swiss people are still concerned about losing their jobs despite the fact the economy has been doing much better in recent years.

The annual “worry barometer”, published by the Credit Suisse bank, shows that people are, however, more relaxed about the prospect of unemployment than before. Foreigners and personal safety are now seen as major issues.

The survey, which has been carried out for 30 years, put unemployment – in a country where the jobless rate is hovering around 2.7 per cent – old age pensions and healthcare at the top of the worry list.

But these three issues are of less concern than in the past. While two thirds of those polled last year were worried about jobs, in 2007 that figure holds true for just 57 per cent.

“There is an obvious link between the economy’s performance and concerns about unemployment,” Andreas Schiendorfer of Credit Suisse told swissinfo.

“Given there is a lag between how the economy is actually doing and how people feel about it, the figure we found might possibly drop again next year.”

The level of concern is higher among respondents with a lower level of education or who rate their personal financial situation as poor.

Pensions moved into second position, but less than half of those surveyed considered it to be a problem. Healthcare dropped into third place, down from 55 per cent in the last survey to just 38 per cent.

Foreigners and safety

Concerns about foreigners (35 per cent) and personal safety (30 per cent) jumped up the list this year into fourth and fifth positions. Security worries (13th in the previous study) more than doubled over 2006.

“Foreigners and personal safety were major themes for political parties, especially the [rightwing] Swiss People’s Party, in the run-up to the general elections,” said Schiendorfer. “A number of criminal cases also received widespread media coverage, which might have influenced respondents.”

On the other hand, people were less concerned by the presence of refugees in Switzerland. The number of those who said it was a worry fell by a third to 26 per cent.

Concerns about the environment rated highly for the first time, moving up the chart into seventh place up from 21st, with 25 per cent of respondents citing as an issue of concern.

Environment gets ahead

“It was a major theme in the media, which might have influenced people, but I think it shows that it is no longer the environmentally conscious alone who are taking notice about the state of the planet,” added Schiendorfer.

He says, however, that given the situation, the pollsters were actually surprised that more people did not flag up the environment as a major concern. But he believes that this is because comfort is still more important than saving the planet.

“For example, when we asked people if they were prepared to stop using their cars for unnecessary trips, most of them said ‘no’,” he told swissinfo.

Asked as if they were proud of their country despite all their concerns, nearly half the respondents said that they were “very proud”, and nearly the same number said they were “rather proud”. Only 12 per cent said they did not feel particularly proud or felt no pride at all.

“The good state of the economy means this doesn’t have much to do with traditional patriotism, but rather pride in Switzerland’s good shape,” said Schiendorfer. “You only have to see all the t-shirts with Swiss crosses being worn to see that.”

swissinfo, Scott Capper

Barometer top ten worries:

1. Unemployment
2. Pensions
3. Healthcare
4. Foreigners
5. Personal safety
6. Refugees
7. Poverty
7. Environment
9. Income
10. Inflation
10. European integration

Switzerland’s most trusted institution is the Federal Court according to the worry barometer, with 66 per cent of favourable opinions (58 per cent and third place in 2006).

The Swiss police come in second despite a 63-per-cent score (first in 2006 with 62 per cent), while the banks ranked third.

The government finished in fourth place, ahead of the Senate, while the House of Representatives was eighth.

Political parties were considered more trustworthy in this election year (34 per cent versus just 19 in 2006), putting them ahead of the media (on 32 per cent).

Security and peace top the list, ahead of neutrality, the landscape, prosperity, tidiness, freedom and the Alps.

Democracy and independence were rated less important.

Clichés such as chocolate and watches rate less highly with the Swiss.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR