General information about Switzerland

Despite Switzerland being a mountainous country located in the centre of Europe, with almost no natural resources, it belongs to one of the world’s major industrialized nations. Just as in many other developed countries, the service sector is a very significant contributor to the overall economy. This sector contributes to more than 60% of the country’s income, primarily due to the large banking industry.

The workforce in Switzerland is divided by 69% in the service sector, 25% in the processing industry, 10% in the energy and construction sector and finally 3% in fisheries, agriculture and forestry.

Within the financial industry, Switzerland belongs to one of the world’s most important countries. This is not least due to the special Swiss banking secrecy and professional assets management. Today, approximately 1/3 of the world’s private money is managed from Switzerland.

Approximately 38% of the land in Switzerland is cultivated farmland owned by the farmers. This limited use of land means that Switzerland barely covers its own food consumption. Because of this, many food products are imported from abroad, which has led to the state paying large subsidies to the farmers. Most agriculture in Switzerland is done by small family farms and industrial farming is hence a rare sight.

The main crops are sugar beet, wheat, potatoes, apples and grapes. On the areas with good climatic conditions, primarily on the south-facing mountain sides, grapes are widely planted. Another important agricultural product is milk and the production of cheese. The population of farm animals is limited to cattle, pigs and sheep.

Forestry and fisheries
A substantial part of the country is covered by forests and it is therefore not uncommon that forestry plays an important role. The forests in Switzerland however suffer from pollution and forest deaths just as in the rest of the world. Wood from the Swiss forests are used for further processing, such as paper and for firewood as well.

Fisheries in Switzerland only have local significance and there are only a few commercial fishermen in the country. The catch represents primarily trout caught in Lake Geneva, Lake Neuenburg Lake Constance lake district and in various rivers.

In Switzerland there are almost no natural resources. Besides salt and lime for cement production, all raw materials for the Swiss economy is imported.

Nearly a quarter of the Swiss working population works in the processing industry. Characteristics of this industry are high production costs and substantial exports. The main industries are machine manufacturing, pharmaceutical as well as precision engineering and optics. The production of watches is the industrial sector with the strongest export. Each year, Switzerland exports 28 million watches.

Currency and banks
The currency of Switzerland is the Swiss francs – CHF. There are 100 rappen to one franc. The quasi-governmental Swiss National Bank is also the place where money is being printed. The bank is owned by the cantons, the banks, etc. The Swiss banks are, due to the country’s political and monetary stability, considered a safe haven for many international investors. Privately owned banks are a main source of income for the country and the main financial centre is Zurich, followed by Geneva.

Foreign trade
The major import items in Switzerland are machinery, cars and chemicals. On the export side, it is also machinery, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and watches. The main trading partners for Switzerland are Germany, France, Italy, England, USA and Japan.

In Switzerland, the railway system is electrified and constitutes 5200 km. 57% of the rail network is state-own. Because of the central location Switzerland plays an important role as a transit country for central, western and southern Europe.

The road network has now expanded to over 71,000 kilometres of which 1.500 km is highway. The transportation of goods also takes place on the Rhine or by plane from the following airports: Zurich-Kloten, Geneva-Cointrin and Basel-Mulhouse.

There are in Switzerland a great potential of hydropower. This is also well exploited and even 60% of Swiss electricity is generated from hydropower. In addition, 35% of the energy is produced at five different power plants in the country.

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