Zurich best for doing business in Europe

An employee enjoys his work environment at Google's engineering centre in Zurich Keystone Archive

Zurich is the most attractive region for conducting business in all of Europe, according to the Swiss research institute BAK Economics.

This content was published on September 4, 2008 - 13:41

The BAK Economic Attractiveness Index placed Zurich at the top of nearly 200 regions thanks to its low taxes, ability to foster innovation and good accessibility. Geneva came fourth.

Published for the first time, the Attractiveness Index ranks regions according to their appeal for both people and companies. Dublin topped a separate BAK list measuring economic performance.

In none of the 192 European regions is the effective tax burden for employees as low as in Zurich, BAK said in its study.

The number of patents and scientific publications per capita is also well above the west European average.

Zurich boasts a university and technology institute which have been ranked highly in other international indices.

Beat Rhyner of canton Zurich's Economic Development Department told swissinfo that taxes and accessibility were important, but said another decisive factor was Zurich's high standard of living.

The Swiss financial capital was named in June the city in the world with the best quality of life for the seventh year in a row by the Mercer consulting company.

Quality of life

"It's not only about moving highly qualified staff abroad but finding people who are ready to move and the city they are willing to move to – that's why quality of life is so important if companies don't want to lose these people," Rhyner said.

He added that corporations are also attracted by the flexible labour laws. "They can grow their business here but also shrink it."

The Zurich office says most companies come to Zurich looking to set up headquarters, such as food giant Kraft in 2006.

The information technology sector is also growing in the Swiss city. Google came to Zurich a few years ago, and Microsoft opened a development centre not long afterwards.

More recently, the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich entered a partnership with IBM to conduct nanoscience research and signed an agreement with Disney to create the only Disney-related laboratory outside of the United States.

The Swiss relocation company, Network Relocation, confirmed that more and more international firms are discovering the advantages of setting up shop in Zurich.

Network Relocation, which provides home finding and other services for staff transferred to Switzerland, has seen a 30 per cent increase in its business this year.

"Our business is growing especially because of people transferred here on short-term assignments," Priska Hutterli, head of the relocation company's Zurich office, told swissinfo.

Hutterli agreed that low taxes and good accessibility thanks to Zurich's airport were strong arguments in the Swiss financial capital's favour.

But she also believes the four international schools in the region are a drawing card, along with a variety of soft factors.

"Switzerland is known as clean and safe," she said, adding that companies could also rely on a reliable workforce in a country where the working week is 42 hours and strikes are rare.


BAK said London was close on the heels of Zurich – only two index points separate the two cities.

The research institute commended the British capital for its liberal trade and job market regulations, and strong innovative spirit.

London also scored well for the variety of good universities in and around the city and above average accessibility from other parts of Europe and the world, due mainly to having the continent's largest airport.

Copenhagen came third thanks to its liberal regulations. Only Zurich and other Swiss regions have more liberal labour laws. The Danish capital came top for product market guidelines.

Dublin received the best marks in BAK's performance category thanks to its dynamic economy and above average Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. Brussels has the highest GDP but its economy received only average scores.

swissinfo, Dale Bechtel

Key facts

Most attractive regions: Zurich, London, Copenhagen, Geneva, Dublin.
Least attractive, in descending order: Milan, Lyon, Madrid, Barcelona, Rome.
Canton Zurich: 1.3 million people, or 17% of Swiss population.
Area: Slightly more than 1,700 square kilometres.

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Why Zurich?

The BAK Economic Attractiveness Index compares 192 regions across western Europe on taxes, accessibility to markets, regulations and ability to foster innovation.

Zurich topped the list thanks to an attractive tax scheme and market access. Rome ranked the worst because of high taxes and restrictive market regulations.

The Zurich region today is a manufacturing hub. Banking and insurance services also contribute heavily to the economy.

In terms of economic productivity, Dublin, Brussels and London are the most fruitful. Edinburgh, Manchester and Berlin ranked the most sluggish.

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