– Entrepreneur Franziska Tschudi Sauber “I would like to see a little more optimism.”
The co-owner and CEO of the Weidmann Group is one the Swiss economy’s most powerful women. Franziska Tschudi Sauber on digitalization, trade tariffs and the resilience of the Swiss.
Ms. Tschudi Sauber, unemployment has been the top-ranked worry throughout the history of the Worry Barometer. And yet this year, it only ranked sixth on the list of Switzerland’s biggest problems (see page 54). Why is that?
I assume that people have a feeling of security because of the good economic situation and the low unemployment – at 2.4 percent, it has fallen to a level last seen a decade ago. Migration is on the decline in Switzerland compared to recent years, and protectionist measures have helped to curb globalism somewhat. Both of these trends could have helped mitigate people’s fears of losing their jobs to global competition.
The view of the future is also optimistic. Of those surveyed, 75 percent consider it “unlikely” that they will lose their job due to new technologies. Are we underestimating the dangers of automation?
If the survey participants are referring to the immediate future, then I share their confidence. In the short term, our jobs are not in jeopardy. And yet I am concerned that we are underestimating the long-term consequences of new technologies. New technologies are not simply robots but rather completely new value creation models that will accompany digitalization. These changes will transform our labor market, and it is critical that we react promptly. Right now we should be training young people and retraining our workers for the future.
There seems to be a kind of ambivalence about the impact of these new technologies on our society. Technology improves the quality of life, makes people feel
complacent and makes it easier for the state to exert control: these three statements all garner strong support.
That’s a discerning assessment. And so the real question is how we as a society deal with this. In my opinion, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. Instead of skepticism, I would like to see a little more courage and optimism concerning the issue of digitalization. Especially from politicians. I have the impression that other countries are much more proactive, such as in digitalization of processes and services.
Concerns about “new poverty” and “wages” are on the rise. Do you feel that this is a reaction to a growing economic disparity?
The media is full of these types of reports. But the fact is that income and wealth inequality in Switzerland has remained stable over the long term. The gap has not widened to the extent that it has in other countries. Still, we have to take these new concerns seriously. They are both likely related to the fact that wages have remained somewhat stagnant in recent years, and the middle class, most of all, feels under increasing pressure. In addition, I suspect that concerns about pensions are also playing a role here – the fear of being unable to maintain the accustomed lifestyle in retirement.
Responses differed when it came to concerns about retirement provision. The third pillar showed the best results, while the first pillar had the worst. Why are people happier with private pension provision?
The Swiss value security, and I think that we prefer those instruments that we can
Franziska Tschudi Sauber ( 59) is co-owner and CEO of Weidmann (formerly Wicor) Holding AG in Rapperswil. The group specializes in high-voltage insulation, natural fiber and plastic technology and employs a workforce of 3,200 worldwide. Tschudi Sauber is on the boards of directors of Swiss Life and Biomed and is a member of the management boards of Economiesuisse and Swissmem.