Switzerland is famous for its long-standing political neutrality, economic stability and superior craftsmanship of luxury goods. These have naturally all contributed to the affluence and security enjoyed by many residing in Switzerland today.
While every country has its characteristic quirks that might not endear it to everyone (this is a country known for yodeling, after all), Switzerland is undoubtedly a charming, comfortable place to call home. Here’s what makes Switzerland one of the best countries in the world to live in!
- Switzerland’s quality of life ranking
- The strong Swiss economy
- Politics and stability
- Healthcare and safety
- Diversity, culture and recreation
Switzerland’s quality of life ranking
On the OECD’s Better Life Index, which assesses economic and social well-being, Switzerland performs well on all 11 key indicators of quality of life: housing, income, jobs, community, education, environment, governance, health, life satisfaction, safety and work-life balance.
This isn’t an isolated result. The majority of surveys assessing life satisfaction find that Swiss residents compare favorably to residents of other highly developed nations.
The strong Swiss economy
There’s more to life than money. With that said, Switzerland’s economic prosperity has made it a strong and stable country for its 8.7 million inhabitants, who enjoy good job opportunities and a robust social safety net.
Although Switzerland is known for its banking industry and favorable tax regime, its wealth is also grounded in innovation. Early advances in precision engineering for the textile and watch-making industries made Switzerland one of the first countries to benefit from the Industrial Revolution of the late-18th and early-19th centuries.
One of the main reasons for Swiss wealth is the manufacture of luxury goods such as watches, jewelry, high-quality milk products and decadent chocolates. But Switzerland also boasts thriving pharmaceutical and precision-engineering industries.
The Swiss tend to create products domestically rather than relying on cheap exports from other countries. This means that Switzerland is generally self-reliant but also considerably more expensive than the rest of Europe. You get what you pay for, though. Swiss products are renowned for their high quality, durability and reliability, which ensures strong market demand at home and abroad.
Incredibly, more than 99% of Swiss businesses are small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) employing fewer than 250 staff. This contributes hugely to the country’s employment stability, as workers do not rely on large multinational companies for employment. If a company is forced to close, the job losses are usually not excessive.
Although the Swiss don’t work long hours relative to similarly developed economies, they earn a lot. The average household disposable income per capita is approximately 36,500 Swiss francs (€37,000) per year. Which is fortunate, given that Switzerland is one of the most expensive countries in the world to live in.
Low unemployment rates
Unemployment rates have been consistently low in Switzerland. This is in large part due to its high-performing school system, which contributes to an exceptionally well-trained and specialized workforce. Nearly nine out of every ten adults in Switzerland complete upper secondary education — a rate that ranks among the highest in the world.
Politics and stability
Switzerland is a neutral country and, as such, it has not endured the same devastation (in terms of the loss of people and the economic crises) suffered by its European neighbors in centuries. This has led to a high level of political, social and economic stability — the likes of which makes Switzerland an attractive country to live and invest in.
A system of direct democracy is one of the unusual features of the Swiss political system. It enables the electorate to express their opinions on decisions taken by the Swiss Parliament and to propose amendments to the Federal Constitution by means of initiatives and referendums. This system of governance is another important stabilizing factor for the country’s political system.
While the voter turnout in Switzerland can be significantly lower than in neighboring countries, one must keep in mind that Swiss voters are called to the polls about four times per year. In a more telling metric, Switzerland routinely tops world rankings for citizen participation in the democratic process.
Healthcare and safety
The healthcare system in Switzerland is considered one of the best in the world. It has a decentralized universal healthcare system; while there is no free public healthcare, all residents are required to pay for their own private health insurance. Unfortunately, this can be quite expensive.
Switzerland is one of the safest places to live and work. The homicide rate is one of the lowest in the world, and an overwhelming majority of residents say that they feel safe walking home at night. In fact, the 2021 World Peace Index placed Switzerland seventh out of 163 countries assessed!
That being said, if you are visiting Switzerland for alpine pursuits such as skiing, snowboarding and mountaineering, you may still face some risks. Beware of rockfalls, landslides, avalanches and altitude sickness — and be sure to pay attention to local safety advice!
Diversity, culture and recreation
A broad culture
Swiss culture encompasses a lot more than cheese and cuckoo clocks, as even a short visit to one of Switzerland’s major cities is sure to show. Museums, libraries, theaters and cultural institutions of all kinds are well-supported by the state, keeping up a long tradition of prolific Swiss cultural output.
The breadth of Swiss culture can be seen in the linguistic diversity that spans the small country, which boasts four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansch). As you move across each of the Swiss cantons, you may notice that each region has developed distinct festivities, dialects and even cuisines.
While Switzerland represents an impressive example of disparate cultural groups overcoming differences in favor of cooperation and compromise, Switzerland’s in-group diversity may not be matched with an openness to new immigrants. Perhaps reflecting Switzerland’s historical insularity, xenophobia has been flagged as a persistent social challenge. This is a sad development, especially considering the rich and varied cultural impact of immigrants seeking refuge from wars and repression in Switzerland over the years. Some major examples include James Joyce, Hugo Ball and many members of the Dada art movement.
Artists, writers and photographers of all kinds have been drawn in by Switzerland’s astounding landscape. Beautiful alpine scenery, pristine lakes and beautiful villages are only some of the reasons why Switzerland is one of the most spectacular countries in the world. These landscapes make Switzerland the perfect destination for hiking, mountain climbing and winter sports. The high-peak Alps make up about 62% of the country’s territory.
Most Swiss now live in cities and towns rather than in the countryside, and it is expected that air quality and other symptoms of environmental pollution will become a more prevalent issue in years to come. But for now, Switzerland ranks highly amongst developed countries on these indicators. Fortunately, strong public initiatives to protect Switzerland’s natural environment have gained momentum in recent years.
A quality of life that’s second to none
Whether you’re considering relocating to Switzerland, studying there or just passing through as a tourist, you’re sure to see what a prosperous, safe and beautiful place it is. While no one can say with absolute certainty which is the happiest country on earth, Switzerland is certainly high in the ranks!