Country List | World Factbook Home
CIA Seal  World Factbook Seal Switzerland
Flag of Switzerland
Map of Switzerland
Introduction Switzerland
The Swiss Confederation was founded in 1291 as a defensive alliance among three cantons. In succeeding years, other localities joined the original three. The Swiss Confederation secured its independence from the Holy Roman Empire in 1499. Switzerland's sovereignty and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers, and the country was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, has strengthened Switzerland's ties with its neighbors. However, the country did not officially become a UN member until 2002. Switzerland remains active in many UN and international organizations, but retains a strong commitment to neutrality.
Geography Switzerland
Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates:
47 00 N, 8 00 E
Map references:
total: 41,290 sq km
land: 39,770 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km
Area - comparative:
slightly less than twice the size of New Jersey
Land boundaries:
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims:
none (landlocked)
temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources:
hydropower potential, timber, salt
Land use:
arable land: 9.91%
permanent crops: 0.58%
other: 89.51% (2005)
Irrigated land:
250 sq km (2003)
Natural hazards:
avalanches, landslides, flash floods
Environment - current issues:
air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Law of the Sea
Geography - note:
landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, has the highest elevations in the Alps
People Switzerland
7,523,934 (July 2006 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 16.3% (male 637,585/female 591,297)
15-64 years: 68.1% (male 2,585,062/female 2,539,345)
65 years and over: 15.6% (male 480,198/female 690,447) (2006 est.)
Median age:
total: 40.1 years
male: 39 years
female: 41.1 years (2006 est.)
Population growth rate:
0.43% (2006 est.)
Birth rate:
9.71 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Death rate:
8.49 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Net migration rate:
3.12 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)
Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.08 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.02 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.7 male(s)/female
total population: 0.97 male(s)/female (2006 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 4.34 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 4.84 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.81 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.51 years
male: 77.69 years
female: 83.48 years (2006 est.)
Total fertility rate:
1.43 children born/woman (2006 est.)
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:
0.4% (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:
13,000 (2001 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths:
less than 100 (2003 est.)
noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss
Ethnic groups:
German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
Roman Catholic 41.8%, Protestant 35.3%, Orthodox 1.8%, other Christian 0.4%, Muslim 4.3%, other 1%, unspecified 4.3%, none 11.1% (2000 census)
German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 20.4%, Italian (official) 6.5%, Serbo-Croatian 1.5%, Albanian 1.3%, Portuguese 1.2%, Spanish 1.1%, English 1%, Romansch 0.5%, other 2.8% (2000 census)
note: German, French, Italian, and Romansch are all national languages, but only the first three are official languages
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)
Government Switzerland
Country name:
conventional long form: Swiss Confederation
conventional short form: Switzerland
local long form: Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft (German); Confederation Suisse (French); Confederazione Svizzera (Italian)
local short form: Schweiz (German); Suisse (French); Svizzera (Italian)
Government type:
formally a confederation, but similar in structure to a federal republic
name: Bern
geographic coordinates: 46 57 N, 7 26 E
time difference: UTC+1 (6 hours ahead of Washington, DC during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October
Administrative divisions:
26 cantons (cantons, singular - canton in French; cantoni, singular - cantone in Italian; kantone, singular - kanton in German); Aargau, Appenzell Ausser-Rhoden, Appenzell Inner-Rhoden, Basel-Landschaft, Basel-Stadt, Bern, Fribourg, Geneve, Glarus, Graubunden, Jura, Luzern, Neuchatel, Nidwalden, Obwalden, Sankt Gallen, Schaffhausen, Schwyz, Solothurn, Thurgau, Ticino, Uri, Valais, Vaud, Zug, Zurich
1 August 1291 (founding of the Swiss Confederation)
National holiday:
Founding of the Swiss Confederation, 1 August (1291)
revision of Constitution of 1874 approved by the Federal Parliament 18 December 1998, adopted by referendum 18 April 1999, officially entered into force 1 January 2000
Legal system:
civil law system influenced by customary law; judicial review of legislative acts, except with respect to federal decrees of general obligatory character; accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations
18 years of age; universal
Executive branch:
chief of state: President Micheline CALMY-REY (since 1 January 2007); Vice President Pascal COUCHEPIN (since 1 January 2007); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Micheline CALMY-REY (since 1 January 2007); Vice President Pascal COUCHEPIN (since 1 January 2007)
cabinet: Federal Council or Bundesrat (in German), Conseil Federal (in French), Consiglio Federale (in Italian) elected by the Federal Assembly usually from among its own members for a four-year term
elections: president and vice president elected by the Federal Assembly from among the members of the Federal Council for a one-year term (they may not serve consecutive terms); election last held 13 December 2006 (next to be held December 2007)
election results: Micheline CALMY-REY elected president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 76.5%; Pascal COUCHEPIN elected vice president; percent of Federal Assembly vote - 86.5%
Legislative branch:
bicameral Federal Assembly or Bundesversammlung (in German), Assemblee Federale (in French), Assemblea Federale (in Italian) consists of the Council of States or Standerat (in German), Conseil des Etats (in French), Consiglio degli Stati (in Italian) (46 seats - consists of two representatives from each canton and one from each half canton; members serve four-year terms) and the National Council or Nationalrat (in German), Conseil National (in French), Consiglio Nazionale (in Italian) (200 seats - members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve four-year terms)
elections: Council of States - last held in most cantons 19 October 2003 (each canton determines when the next election will be held); National Council - last held 19 October 2003 (next to be held October 2007)
election results: Council of States - percent of vote by party - NA%; seats by party - CVP 15, FDP 14, SVP 8, SPS 6, other 3; National Council - percent of vote by party - SVP 26.6%, SPS 23.3%, FDP 17.3%, CVP 14.4%, Greens 7.4%, other small parties all under 5%; seats by party - SVP 55, SPS 54, FDP 36, CVP 28, Green Party 13, other small parties 14
Judicial branch:
Federal Supreme Court (judges elected for six-year terms by the Federal Assembly)
Political parties and leaders:
Green Party (Gruene Partei der Schweiz or Grune, Parti Ecologiste Suisse or Les Verts, Partito Ecologista Svizzero or I Verdi, Partida Ecologica Svizra or La Verda) [Ruth GENNER]; Christian Democratic People's Party (Christichdemokratische Volkspartei der Schweiz or CVP, Parti Democrate-Chretien Suisse or PDC, Partito Democratico-Cristiano Popolare Svizzero or PDC, Partida Cristiandemocratica dalla Svizra or PCD) [Christophe DARBELLAY, president]; Radical Free Democratic Party (Freisinnig-Demokratische Partei der Schweiz or FDP, Parti Radical-Democratique Suisse or PRD, Partitio Liberal-Radicale Svizzero or PLR) [Fulvio PELLI, president]; Social Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei der Schweiz or SPS, Parti Socialist Suisse or PSS, Partito Socialista Svizzero or PSS, Partida Socialdemocratica de la Svizra or PSS) [Hans-Juerg FEHR, president]; Swiss People's Party (Schweizerische Volkspartei or SVP, Union Democratique du Centre or UDC, Unione Democratica de Centro or UDC, Uniun Democratica dal Center or UDC) [Ueli MAURER, president]; and other minor parties
Political pressure groups and leaders:
International organization participation:
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Urs ZISWILER
chancery: 2900 Cathedral Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 745-7900
FAX: [1] (202) 387-2564
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco
consulate(s): Boston
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Peter R. CONEWAY
embassy: Jubilaumsstrasse 93, CH-3005 Bern
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [41] (031) 357 70 11
FAX: [41] (031) 357 73 44
Flag description:
red square with a bold, equilateral white cross in the center that does not extend to the edges of the flag
Economy Switzerland
Economy - overview:
Switzerland is a peaceful, prosperous, and stable modern market economy with low unemployment, a highly skilled labor force, and a per capita GDP larger than that of the big Western European economies. The Swiss in recent years have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's to enhance their international competitiveness. Switzerland remains a safehaven for investors, because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc's long-term external value. Reflecting the anemic economic conditions of Europe, GDP growth stagnated during the 2001-03 period, improved during 2004-05 to 1.8% annually and to 2.9% in 2006. Even so, unemployment has remained at less than half the EU average.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$252.9 billion (2006 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$386.8 billion (2006 est.)
GDP - real growth rate:
2.9% (2006 est.)
GDP - per capita (PPP):
$33,600 (2006 est.)
GDP - composition by sector:
agriculture: 1.5%
industry: 34%
services: 64.5% (2003 est.)
Labor force:
3.81 million (2006 est.)
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture: 4.6%
industry: 26.3%
services: 69.1% (1998)
Unemployment rate:
3.3% (2006 est.)
Population below poverty line:
Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.6%
highest 10%: 25.2% (1992)
Distribution of family income - Gini index:
33.1 (1992)
Inflation rate (consumer prices):
1.2% (2006 est.)
Investment (gross fixed):
21.8% of GDP (2006 est.)
revenues: $141 billion
expenditures: $139.1 billion; including capital expenditures of $NA (2006 est.)
Public debt:
51% of GDP (2006 est.)
Agriculture - products:
grains, fruits, vegetables; meat, eggs
machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments
Industrial production growth rate:
6.5% (2006 est.)
Electricity - production:
61.97 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - production by source:
fossil fuel: 1.3%
hydro: 59.5%
nuclear: 37.1%
other: 2% (2001)
Electricity - consumption:
56.93 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - exports:
27.8 billion kWh (2004)
Electricity - imports:
27.1 billion kWh (2004)
Oil - production:
2,241 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - consumption:
268,100 bbl/day (2004 est.)
Oil - exports:
10,420 bbl/day (2001)
Oil - imports:
289,500 bbl/day (2001)
Natural gas - production:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - consumption:
3.311 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - exports:
0 cu m (2004 est.)
Natural gas - imports:
3.311 billion cu m (2004 est.)
Current account balance:
$50.44 billion (2006 est.)
$166.3 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Exports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products
Exports - partners:
Germany 19.4%, US 10.9%, Italy 9.1%, France 8.7%, UK 5.4%, Spain 4.1% (2005)
$162.3 billion f.o.b. (2006 est.)
Imports - commodities:
machinery, chemicals, vehicles, metals; agricultural products, textiles
Imports - partners:
Germany 31.6%, Italy 10.5%, France 10%, US 5.6%, Netherlands 4.8%, Austria 4.6%, UK 4.4% (2005)
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$38.29 billion (August 2006 est.)
Debt - external:
$1.077 trillion (30 June 2006)
Economic aid - donor:
ODA, $1.1 billion (1995)
Currency (code):
Swiss franc (CHF)
Currency code:
Exchange rates:
Swiss francs per US dollar - 1.2508 (2006), 1.2452 (2005), 1.2435 (2004), 1.3467 (2003), 1.5586 (2002)
Fiscal year:
calendar year
Communications Switzerland
Telephones - main lines in use:
5.123 million (2005)
Telephones - mobile cellular:
6.847 million (2005)
Telephone system:
general assessment: excellent domestic and international services
domestic: extensive cable and microwave radio relay networks
international: country code - 41; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean)
Radio broadcast stations:
AM 4, FM 113 (plus many low power stations), shortwave 2 (1998)
7.1 million (1997)
Television broadcast stations:
115 (plus 1,919 repeaters) (1995)
3.31 million (1997)
Internet country code:
Internet hosts:
2,442,659 (2006)
Internet Service Providers (ISPs):
44 (Switzerland and Liechtenstein) (2000)
Internet users:
5,097,822 (2005)
Transportation Switzerland
65 (2006)
Airports - with paved runways:
total: 42
over 3,047 m: 3
2,438 to 3,047 m: 4
1,524 to 2,437 m: 11
914 to 1,523 m: 8
under 914 m: 16 (2006)
Airports - with unpaved runways:
total: 23
under 914 m: 23 (2006)
2 (2006)
gas 1,831 km; oil 94 km; refined products 7 km (2006)
total: 4,583 km
standard gauge: 3,234 km 1.435-m gauge (3,223 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,339 km 1.000-m gauge (1,338 km electrified); 10 km 0.800-m gauge (10 km electrified) (2005)
total: 71,297 km
paved: 71,297 km (including 1,728 of expressways) (2004)
65 km (Rhine River between Basel-Rheinfelden and Schaffhausen-Bodensee) (2003)
Merchant marine:
total: 27 ships (1000 GRT or over) 492,434 GRT/810,559 DWT
by type: bulk carrier 9, cargo 10, chemical tanker 3, container 4, specialized tanker 1
foreign-owned: 2 (Monaco 2)
registered in other countries: 320 (Antigua and Barbuda 4, Bahamas 2, Belize 1, Bermuda 2, Cyprus 4, France 2, French Southern and Antarctic Lands 1, Germany 1, Indonesia 3, Liberia 7, Malta 21, Marshall Islands 13, Mauritius 2, Morocco 1, Panama 226, Portugal 3, Russia 7, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 13, Tonga 1, Turkey 1, UK 3, Vanuatu 2) (2006)
Ports and terminals:
Military Switzerland
Military branches:
Swiss Armed Forces: Land Forces, Swiss Air Force (Schweizer Luftwaffe); Switzerland has no navy, but maintains a fleet of military patrol boats to patrol Swiss borders (2006)
Military service age and obligation:
the Swiss Constitution states that "every Swiss male is obliged to do military service"; every Swiss male has to serve for at least 260 days in the armed forces; 19 years of age for compulsory military service; 17 years of age for voluntary military service; conscripts receive 15 weeks of compulsory training, followed by 10 intermittent recalls for training over the next 22 years; women are accepted on a voluntary basis but are not drafted (2005)
Manpower available for military service:
males age 19-49: 1,707,694
females age 19-49: 1,662,099 (2005 est.)
Manpower fit for military service:
males age 19-49: 1,375,889
females age 19-49: 1,342,945 (2005 est.)
Manpower reaching military service age annually:
males age 18-49: 46,319
females age 19-49: 43,829 (2005 est.)
Military expenditures - dollar figure:
$2.548 billion (FY01)
Military expenditures - percent of GDP:
1% (FY01)
Transnational Issues Switzerland
Disputes - international:
Illicit drugs:
a major international financial center vulnerable to the layering and integration stages of money laundering; despite significant legislation and reporting requirements, secrecy rules persist and nonresidents are permitted to conduct business through offshore entities and various intermediaries; transit country for and consumer of South American cocaine and Southwest Asian heroin

This page was last updated on 18 January, 2007