OFFICIAL NAME: Swiss Confederation
SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal State
AREA: 41,293 Sq Km (15,943 Sq Mi)
ESTIMATED 2000 POPULATION: 7,133,500
LOCATION AND GEOGRAPHY: Switzerland is a landlocked country
in West Central Europe. It is bound by Liechtenstein and
Austria to the east, Italy to the south, France to the west
and Germany to the north. Of the country's land area, 20%
is urban and 3% is inland water. Additionally, the Alps
and the pre-Alps regions account for 60% of the land area,
the central plateau or Mittelland accounts for 30% and the
Jura Mountains for another 10%. The Alps Mountain Chain
runs through the southern half of the country from east
to west and is divided by the Rhone, Reuss, Ticino and Upper
Rhine River Valleys. The Jura Mountains are an out spur
of the Alps running from the southwest to the northwest
of the country. The central plateau lies between the two
main ranges and is watered by the Aare River and fringed
by great lakes. The Rhine River drains 68% of the country
while the Rhone and its tributaries drains around 28%. Major
Cities (pop. est.); Zurich 940,200 Basel 406,400, Geneva
424,000, Berne 332,500 (1990). Land Use; forested 32%, pastures
28%, agricultural-cultivated 12%, other 28% (1992).
CLIMATE: Switzerland has a temperate climate with conditions
that vary with relief and altitude. Summers are generally warm with average
annual precipitation varying from 600 mm to 2,000 mm (24 to 79 inches)
depending on the region while winters are characterized by clear skies,
although the central plateau experiences persistent cloud. Average temperature
ranges in Zurich are from -3 to 2 degrees Celsius (27 to 36 degrees Fahrenheit)
in January to 13 to 24 degrees Celsius (55 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) in
PEOPLE: The Swiss are comprised of four principal ethnic groups
that make up the majority of the population, the Germans, the French, the
Italians and the Romansch of Celtic origins. The Germans account for 65%
of the population, the French for 18%, the Italians for 10%, the Romansch
for 1% and the remainder are others.
DEMOGRAPHIC/VITAL STATISTICS: Density; 165.2 persons per sq km
(427.8 persons per sq mi) (1991). Urban-Rural; 60.0% urban, 40.0% rural
(1990). Sex Distribution; 48.8% male, 51.2% female (1990). Life Expectancy
at Birth; 74.0 years male, 80.9 years female (1989). Age Breakdown; 17%
under 15, 22% 15 to 29, 23% 30 to 44, 18% 45 to 59, 13% 60 to 74, 7% 75
and over (1990). Birth Rate; 12.5 per 1,000 (1990). Death Rate; 9.5 per
1,000 (1990). Increase Rate; 3.0 per 1,000 (1990). Infant Mortality Rate;
7.1 per 1,000 live births (1990).
RELIGIONS: Mostly Christians with 48% of the population Roman
Catholic while 44% are Protestant. Other religious minorities include Jews,
Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists.
LANGUAGES: Switzerland is a quadrilingual nation with German,
French, Italian and Romansch or Rhaeto-Roman spoken with the first three
the official languages.
EDUCATION: Aged 30 or over and having attained: lower secondary
or less 33.9%, upper secondary 47.5%, higher 18.6% (1988). Literacy; literate
population aged 15 or over virtually 100% (1990).
MODERN HISTORY - WWII TO 1993: In 1959 Switzerland became a founding
member in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). In the same year
a four-party coalition government took office. In 1963 Switzerland joined
the Council of Europe. In 1971 women gained the right to vote in national
elections and be elected to the Federal Council. In 1984 Elisabeth Kopp
became the first woman to be elected to the Federal Council but was forced
to resign in Dec. 1988 over allegations that she abused her position as
justice minister. In Mar. 1986 a national referendum resulted in a 3 to
1 rejection for Switzerland's UN membership application. In Mar. 1990 demonstrators
rallied outside the Berne Parliament in protest to police creating around
900,000 files on political suspects over the years. The demonstrations
escalated when protesters began breaking windows, resulting in anti-riot
police retaliating with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets in an
attempt to disperse the protesters. In 1991 Switzerland celebrated the
confederation's 700th anniversary and began negotiations to join the European
Economic Area (EEA). In Oct. 1991 general elections resulted in the ruling
four party coalition being re-elected. In Dec. 1991 Flavio Cotti was elected
President and Rene Felber, Vice President. In 1992 the Switzerland's economy
continued to struggle for a third year with unemployment rising and the
number of bankruptcies increasing. On Dec. 6, 1992 a referendum on Switzerland's
draft agreement to join the EEA was rejected by 50.3% of voters, although
opinion polls indicated up to 60% supported for it. In 1993 government
ministers, industrialists and business leaders attempted to persuade anti-EEA
supporters that Switzerland's best prospects lie in full EU membership.
In Nov. 1993 a referendum approved the government's proposed value-added
tax (VAT) to replace the country's sales tax in line with other EU countries.
Also in 1993 the government announced that state employees' wages would
no longer be wholly index-linked which led to protesters demonstrating
in the streets.
CURRENCY: The official currency is the Franc (SwF) divided into
ECONOMY: Gross National Product; USD $254,066,000,000 (1993).
National Debt; SwF 77,774,000,000 (1994). Imports; SwF 87,279,000,000 (1994).
Exports; SwF 90,213,000,000 (1994). Tourism Receipts; USD $7,001,000,000
(1993). Balance of Trade; SwF 3,798,000,000 (1994). Economically Active
Population; 3,552,100 or 50.8% of total population (1993). Unemployed;
MAIN TRADING PARTNERS: Its main trading partners are Germany,
France, Italy, the USA and the UK.
MAIN PRIMARY PRODUCTS: Apples, Barley, Building Stone, Grapes, Livestock,
Potatoes, Salt, Timber, Wheat.
MAJOR INDUSTRIES: Banking and Insurance, Cement, Chemicals, Clock
and Watch Making, Forestry, Instruments, Iron and Steel, Machinery, Paper
and Wood Pulp, Pharmaceuticals, Textiles and Yarns, Tourism.
MAIN EXPORTS: Chemicals, Clocks and Watches, Food, Instruments,
Jewelry, Machinery, Pharmaceuticals, Precious Metals, Textiles.
TRANSPORT: Railroads; route length 5,020 km (3,119 mi) (1988),
passenger-km 10,884,000,000 (6,763,000,000 passenger-mi) (1989), cargo
ton-km 8,160,000,000 (5,589,000,000 short ton-mi) (1989). Roads; length
71,099 km (44,179 mi) (1989). Vehicles; cars 2,916,959 (1989), trucks and
buses 261,034 (1989). Merchant Marine; vessels 20 (1990), deadweight tonnage
483,307 (1990). Air Transport; passenger-km 15,986,000,000 (9,933,000,000
passenger-mi) (1990), cargo ton-km 927,376,000 (635,160,000 short ton-mi)
COMMUNICATIONS: Daily Newspapers; total of 110 with a total circulation
of 3,427,801 (1994). Radio; receivers 5,600,000 (1994). Television; receivers
2,545,000 (1994). Telephones; units 4,265,800 (1993).
MILITARY: 626,800 (1994) total active duty personnel while military
expenditure accounts for 1.7% (1993) of the Gross National Product (GNP).
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