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.

SEE ALSO: Eight countries in stats: from Spain to Sweden

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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EXPLAINED: The striking contrasts between Switzerland’s regions

The word "Switzerland" usually conjures up images of a small, mountainous and affluent country, but as a new study shows, there are significant disparities between various regions.

EXPLAINED: The striking contrasts between Switzerland's regions

To many people living abroad, Switzerland is a homogeneous nation of bankers, watchmakers, chocolate, cheese and mountains.

But unless you actually live here, you will likely not know that Switzerland is a diverse country — not only linguistically and culturally, but also in terms of its, economy, infrastructure, costs, and other aspects.

These differences are shown in a new study published by the Federal Statistical Office (OFS).

“Switzerland is diverse and rich in regional disparities. It presents striking contrasts between urban centers and mountain regions, but also experiences important differences within the agglomeration areas”, researchers reported.

Of nine categories measuring regional differences that OFS focused on, these are the main ones that impact foreign residents living in Switzerland the most:


Not surprisingly, most jobs are generally found in urban areas, especially in the agglomerations of Zurich (including the nearby Zug), Geneva and Lausanne.

However, when looking specifically at jobs that were created in new companies outside of the above-mentioned markets, most are found in agglomerations of Lugano and Mendrisio, Luzern, St. Gallen, Aarau-Olten, Reinach-Allschwil, and Freienbach-Glarus.

The largest red spots indicate where most new jobs were created. Image: OFS

READ MORE: Employment: This is where Switzerland’s jobs are right now


As the OFS pointed out, “differences in income between regions can encourage population movements and thus contribute to reinforcing disparities. Income distribution and social protection are important indicators of social well-being and equality”.

The highest incomes, according to OFS, are in the region of Zurich and Central Switzerland, with the greater Zurich region being “characterised by one of the lowest at-risk-of-poverty rates”.

READ MORE: REVEALED: What are the best and worst paid jobs in Switzerland?

This chart (in French) shows where in Switzerland salaries are highest and lowest.


As the OFS has noted, “the tax burden has an influence in the choice of the place of residence or establishment…There is tax competition between the cantons and between the municipalities”.

The lowest taxation rates for individuals and families are found in the central Swiss cantons of Zug, Nidwalden and Schwyz, “with Zug having the lowest tax burden”, according to FSO.  

The highest rates, on the other hand, are in the French-speaking cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Vaud and Jura.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: How where you live in Switzerland impacts how much income tax you pay


The highest rents are found in the urban municipalities of large agglomerations, while the lowest rents are in the rural regions, which is the usual, long-term pattern.

This chart shows how the rents have increased in the past two decades in Switzerland as a whole, followed by urban centres, suburbs of big cities, and smaller communities.

 Image: OFS

Services and infrastructure

Both are among the main determinants “of the economic and residential quality of a region. Combined with each other, infrastructures and services count in the choice of a place of residence or establishment”, the study found.

Among services that fall under this category is the proximity of public transportation stops, schools, shopping, and leisure / recreational activities.

While most people in Switzerland live reasonably close to this infrastructure, “access distances are above average in rural areas for almost all the services analysed”, OFS reports, adding that “distances are approximately twice as long in rural areas as in urban ones”.