Switzer­land in the mid­dle

From bio­di­ver­sity to trash to – no sur­prise – friend­li­ness: Eight ar­eas in which Switzer­land’s per­for­mance is less than stel­lar.

Bulletin - - Contents - Com­piled by Mathias Plüss Il­lus­tra­tions Elena Xausa

In­ter­net on the train, friend­li­ness, trash: ar­eas where Switzer­land needs to catch up.


Per capita, Switzer­land pro­duces 720 kilo­grams of trash each year – or about two kilo­grams per per­son per day. Ac­cord­ing to Euro­stat, the only coun­tries in Europe that pro­duce more waste are Den­mark and Nor­way. While the amount of trash gen­er­ated in the other Euro­pean coun­tries stayed about the same be­tween 1995 and 2016, it in­creased by 20 per­cent in Switzer­land.


We are see­ing a dra­matic de­cline in bio­di­ver­sity in Switzer­land. The sit­u­a­tion is par­tic­u­larly wor­ri­some for cul­ti­vated land: Be­tween 1990 and 2016, the pop­u­la­tions of birds typ­i­cally found in agri­cul­tural re­gions de­creased by over 50 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the new At­las of Breed­ing Birds pub­lished by the Swiss Or­nitho­log­i­cal In­sti­tute in Sem­pach. Species such as the sky­lark have be­come quite rare. Neigh­bor­ing coun­tries do bet­ter, at least near the border; ap­par­ently our neigh­bors al­low a bit more room for na­ture than we do.

Time re­quired to start a busi­ness

Over the past few years, Switzer­land’s po­si­tion on the World Bank’s “ease of do­ing busi­ness” in­dex has steadily dropped. Most re­cently we ranked 33rd out of 190, be­hind such coun­tries as Ge­or­gia, Mace­do­nia and Mau­ri­tius. It takes ten days to reg­is­ter a com­pany in Switzer­land; in New Zealand, the world’s most busi­ness-friendly coun­try, it can be done in only half a day.

Pri­vate debt

Swiss house­hold debt rose by 40 per­cent be­tween 2007 and 2017. Switzer­land leads the world in this cat­e­gory, with per­capita debt amount­ing to ap­prox­i­mately 100,000 Swiss francs (nearly 130 per­cent of our gross do­mes­tic prod­uct). When peo­ple in Switzer­land pur­chase an apart­ment or a house, we keep the mort­gage for decades. Nearly ev­ery­where else mort­gages are even­tu­ally paid off. Our higher in­debt­ed­ness is re­lated to a steady rise in the rate of home own­er­ship.


Ex­pats liv­ing in Switzer­land give us poor marks. When it comes to safety, Switzer­land tops the list pub­lished by In­ter­na­tions, the in­ter­na­tional net­work for ex­pa­tri­ates. How­ever, it ranks only 44th of 68 on the list of the “best coun­tries.” The rea­son: For­eign­ers of­ten find it dif­fi­cult to live here. We rank at the bot­tom in such cat­e­gories as “friend­li­ness” and “mak­ing friends.”

Health care costs

Health in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums have more than dou­bled in the last 20 years. Switzer­land ranks sec­ond among the OECD coun­tries, af­ter the United States, in its per-capita ex­pen­di­tures on health care. When only out-of-pocket costs are taken into ac­count, Switzer­land is num­ber one by far.


Seventy-three per­cent of Swiss peo­ple wash their hands reg­u­larly with soap, ac­cord­ing to a ma­jor study con­ducted in 2015 by WIN, an in­ter­na­tional net­work of 75 mar­ket re­search and polling firms. This puts us in the mid­dle of the pack among 63 coun­tries. At the top are Saudi Ara­bia ( 97 per­cent wash their hands reg­u­larly) and Bos­nia (96 per­cent) – prob­a­bly be­cause of the im­por­tance at­tached to rit­ual cleans­ing in the Mus­lim coun­tries.

In­ter­net ac­cess on trains

Any­one who trav­els abroad will have no­ticed that pub­lic trans­port in Switzer­land is rel­a­tively re­li­able and punc­tual. But we lag be­hind when it comes to in­no­va­tion. In the Nether­lands, for ex­am­ple, trav­el­ers can pur­chase a reload­able card that en­ables them to use all of the coun­try’s trains, buses and sub­ways, with no need for cash. In the Czech Repub­lic, it has been pos­si­ble for many years to load a ticket with the half-price fare. Czechs and oth­ers have also had ac­cess to Wi-fi on trains for a while now, while it is only just be­ing in­tro­duced in Switzer­land.

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