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