A portrait of modern Switzerland in ten stats

From wages to welfare, we've picked out ten stats from the country's and the world's top institutions, drawing out figures that give a fascinating snapshot of Switzerland today.

A portrait of modern Switzerland in ten stats
A Swiss flag at Jungfraujoch. Photo: Eric Titcombe

Almost half of marriages end in divorce

Fewer Swiss people are getting hitched, compared with five years ago – according to the Swiss National Statistics Office.

The number of marriages that took place in 2009 was 41,918 – and in 2013 it had gone down to 39,794.

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Sadly, almost half of these marriages are doomed to fail. The divorce rate in 2013 was 41.9 percent – though admittedly it had fallen from a staggering 47.7 per cent in 2009.

If you’re a newly-wed, you may want to avoid the canton of Neufchâtel where more people get divorced than anywhere else in the country – 51.9 per cent. Geneva doesn’t fare too well either, with a rate of 49.9 percent.

The average age of spouses, meanwhile, hasn’t really changed all that much – 31.8 years for men and 29.6 years for women in 2013.

To give you an idea of how the divorce rate has changed since 1950, see the graph below. 

More Swiss are surviving cancer

Switzerland is making great strides in treatment of cancer. According to figures in the Concord 2 study, published in the leading medical journal The Lancet, the five-year survival rate has increased for all kinds of cancers. 

Among Swiss adults, the greatest improvement was in survival rates for prostate cancer. A total of 76 percent of people diagnosed with the disease between 1995 and 1999 survived for five years. For people diagnosed between 2005 and 2009 the survival rate was 88 percent.

Lung cancer, however, has a mortality rate of 19.5 percent followed by bowel cancer at 10.9 percent, according to Eurostat.

Overall, cancer is responsible for 26.7 percent of all deaths in Switzerland, slightly above the EU average of 26.3 percent.

Fewer women are having babies

Women have been having less babies across the EU since the 1960s and the story is no different for Switzerland, Eurostat figures show.

While in 1960 the birth rate was 2.44 per woman, this has since declined to just 1.52 per woman in 2012. The rate has remained the same since 2010.

This is only slightly below the average in the EU of 1.58 births per woman. 

Foreigners are driving up the unemployment rate

According to figures from the Federal Social Insurance Office, published in September, a total of 296,151 people are receiving unemployment benefits in Switzerland.

Of this number, 162,867 are men and 133,284 are women. 

The overall jobless rate, which is relatively low compared with other European countries, stood at 3.1 percent in October – an increase from 3 per cent the previous month.

This slight jump, according to a report from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), is down to the rise in unemployed non-Swiss people in the country.

Although the percentage of non-Swiss unemployed in the country rose to 5.8 percent from 5.5 percent, the rate for Swiss citizens remained unchanged at 2.2 per cent.

Switzerland is getting safer

In 2013, the police crime statistics of the Federal Statistical Office recorded a total of 725,687 offences in Switzerland.

This shows a decrease of three percent compared with the previous year.

Offences under the Criminal Code, meanwhile, fell by six percent, mainly due to a decrease in the number of thefts, according to the statistics office.

There was a decline in the number of both minors and young adults charged, as well as those charged who were asylum seekers.

There is still gender inequality in the workplace

Switzerland still has some way to go when it comes to gender equality.

According to World Bank data, 61 percent of women over the age of 15 were economically active in 2012. This figure has remained the same since 2010. 

While for men this rate was 75 percent in 2012, down from 76 percent in 2011. 

The gender pay gap in Switzerland is still relatively high compared to EU countries, at 17.9 percent, Eurostat data from 2012 shows.

Homelessness – a hidden problem?

Stats for the number of homeless are hard to come by in the Alpine country. 

When contacted by The Local, the Swiss branch of the Salvation Army said it was unaware of any national statistics for the phenomenon. And there were no stats listed on the National Statistics Office’s website.

But although homelessness may not seem like a problem in the country, it definitely exists.

Authorities in Geneva have even converted a nuclear bunker to cater for the city’s homeless population, open between the months of November and April, reports The Guardian.

Last winter the shelter welcomed around 1,500 people from 63 nationalities.

High earners

In 2012 the average income in Switzerland was $53,265, according to the OECD.

And in 2011 Switzerland boasted one of the highest median household incomes in the world at $33,669, according to OECD statistics, second only to Luxembourg and Norway. 

Large immigrant population 

According to a report published in 2013 by the United Nations entitled Trends in Migrant Stock, Switzerland was home to 2.335,059 migrants.

That number accounts for 28.9 percent of the country’s population and one percent of the world’s migrant population.

One of the most unequal countries in the developed world

While Switzerland frequently tops the charts for per capita income, the wealth is spread unevenly. An OECD Better Life Index study in June reported that the Swiss ranked as the 29th most unequal country out its 34 member countries.

The report estimated the average "net adjusted disposable income" of the top 20 percent of the population at $58,794 a year.

By comparison, the bottom 20 percent of the population live on an estimated $12,880 a year. The inequities are more glaring in the country's largest cities. For example, in Geneva, the country's second largest city, less than 16 percent of the population own their homes, while the rest are renting (although a proportion of renters may own secondary homes outside the canton). 

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How Europe’s population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

The populations of countries across Europe are changing, with some increasing whilst others are falling. Populations are also ageing meaning the EU is having to react to changing demographics.

How Europe's population is changing and what the EU is doing about it

After decades of growth, the population of the European Union decreased over the past two years mostly due to the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The latest data from the EU statistical office Eurostat show that the EU population was 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, 172,000 fewer than the previous year. On 1 January 2020, the EU had a population of 447.3 million.

This trend is because, in 2020 and 2021 the two years marked by the crippling pandemic, there have been more deaths than births and the negative natural change has been more significant than the positive net migration.

But there are major differences across countries. For example, in numerical terms, Italy is the country where the population has decreased the most, while France has recorded the largest increase.

What is happening and how is the EU reacting?

In which countries is the population growing?

In 2021, there were almost 4.1 million births and 5.3 million deaths in the EU, so the natural change was negative by 1.2 million (more broadly, there were 113,000 more deaths in 2021 than in 2020 and 531,000 more deaths in 2020 than in 2019, while the number of births remained almost the same).

Net migration, the number of people arriving in the EU minus those leaving, was 1.1 million, not enough to compensate.

A population growth, however, was recorded in 17 countries. Nine (Belgium, Denmark, Ireland, France, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands and Sweden) had both a natural increase and positive net migration.

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In eight EU countries (the Czech Republic, Germany, Estonia, Spain, Lithuania, Austria, Portugal and Finland), the population increased because of positive net migration, while the natural change was negative.

The largest increase in absolute terms was in France (+185,900). The highest natural increase was in Ireland (5.0 per 1,000 persons), while the biggest growth rate relative to the existing population was recorded in Luxembourg, Ireland, Cyprus and Malta (all above 8.0 per 1,000 persons).

In total, 22 EU Member States had positive net migration, with Luxembourg (13.2 per 1 000 persons), Lithuania (12.4) and Portugal (9.6) topping the list.

Births and deaths in the EU from 1961 to 2021 (Eurostat)

Where is the population declining?

On the other hand, 18 EU countries had negative rates of natural change, with deaths outnumbering births in 2021.

Ten of these recorded a population decline. In Bulgaria, Italy, Hungary, Poland, and Slovenia population declined due to a negative natural change, while net migration was slightly positive.

In Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia, the decrease was both by negative natural change and negative net migration.

READ ALSO: Italian class sizes set to shrink as population falls further

The largest fall in population was reported in Italy, which lost over a quarter of a million (-253,100).

The most significant negative natural change was in Bulgaria (-13.1 per 1,000 persons), Latvia (-9.1), Lithuania (-8.7) and Romania (-8.2). On a proportional basis, Croatia and Bulgaria recorded the biggest population decline (-33.1 per 1,000 persons).

How is the EU responding to demographic change?

From 354.5 million in 1960, the EU population grew to 446.8 million on 1 January 2022, an increase of 92.3 million. If the growth was about 3 million persons per year in the 1960s, it slowed to about 0.7 million per year on average between 2005 and 2022, according to Eurostat.

The natural change was positive until 2011 and turned negative in 2012 when net migration became the key factor for population growth. However, in 2020 and 2021, this no longer compensated for natural change and led to a decline.

READ ALSO: IN NUMBERS: One in four Austrian residents now of foreign origin

Over time, says Eurostat, the negative natural change is expected to continue given the ageing of the population if the fertility rate (total number of children born to each woman) remains low.

This poses questions for the future of the labour market and social security services, such as pensions and healthcare.

The European Commission estimates that by 2070, 30.3 per cent of the EU population will be 65 or over compared to 20.3 per cent in 2019, and 13.2 per cent is projected to be 80 or older compared to 5.8 per cent in 2019.

The number of people needing long-term care is expected to increase from 19.5 million in 2016 to 23.6 million in 2030 and 30.5 million in 2050.

READ ALSO: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

However, demographic change impacts different countries and often regions within the same country differently.

When she took on the Presidency of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen appointed Dubravka Šuica, a Croatian politician, as Commissioner for Democracy and Demography to deal with these changes.

Among measures in the discussion, in January 2021, the Commission launched a debate on Europe’s ageing society, suggesting steps for higher labour market participation, including more equality between women and men and longer working lives.

In April, the Commission proposed measures to make Europe more attractive for foreign workers, including simplifying rules for non-EU nationals who live on a long-term basis in the EU. These will have to be approved by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

In the fourth quarter of this year, the Commission also plans to present a communication on dealing with ‘brain drain’ and mitigate the challenges associated with population decline in regions with low birth rates and high net emigration.

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.