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Why Switzerland always ranks as one of the best places in the world to live

Why Switzerland always ranks as one of the best places in the world to live
FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP
It is not just chocolate and cheese — Switzerland offers many perks that make it stand out on the world stage, which is why it regularly tops global rankings. Here's a look at why the country scores so highly.

The Human Development Index, which was released by the United Nations last week, ranks Switzerland in the second place among 189 countries in terms of long life, education, and standard of living.

This comes as no surprise to those who follow such research: international studies frequently place Switzerland among the best nations to live in.

High rankings don't mean that everything is perfect in this Alpine nation — it isn’t.

What it does mean is that specific criteria evaluated in the research are of particularly high standard in Switzerland, especially when compared to other nations.

Some answers as to why the Swiss get consistently high scores in quality-of-life surveys come from the US News & World Report, which rated Switzerland as ‘The Best Country in the World’.

The report based its findings on “low unemployment, a skilled labor force and one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world. The country’s strong economy is powered by low corporate tax rates, a highly-developed service sector led by financial services and a high-tech manufacturing industry”.

But there are other factors at play as well, and it seems that Switzerland excels at many of them:

High incomes: Swiss salaries are among the highest in the world. It’s true that not everyone makes loads of money and it’s also true that the cost of living here is high. But surveys are based on averages. According to NationMaster, which collects key data from various sources, “in terms of disposable income Switzerland leads by a huge margin, with an average disposable income of $6300, which is 2 to 3 times that of its neighbours – Germany ($2850), France ($2,760) and Italy ($2,120)”.

Healthcare: Despite widespread complaints about the rising insurance premiums, Switzerland has one of the most efficient and accessible universal health systems in the world, where patients have direct access to all levels of care without referrals, and waiting times are minimal.

Not coincidentally, the Swiss have the highest life expectancy in Europe and second-highest in the world. 

Education: Along with high incomes and health, good education and skills are important determinants of quality of life. In Switzerland, 88 percent of adults 26 to 64 years of age have upper secondary education, a number higher than the 78-percent average in the other developed countries belonging to Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

Quality education is also provided via the system of apprenticeships, and 70 percent of Swiss students opt for the vocational training that this system provides. “It is an important reason why the Swiss middle class has fared so much better than equivalents in most other developed countries” according to Avenir Suisse think tank.

Safety: Being neutral and staying out of wars and international conflicts has made Switzerland safer than many other nations, but the sense of security also comes from the lack of internal political unrest and a relatively low number of violent crimes. 

Infrastructure: From a widespread and efficient public transportation system and roads that are in excellent condition, to the internet coverage which has one of the highest penetration rates in Europe, Switzerland’s infrastructure is well maintained. This not only makes life easier and more comfortable for ‘regular’ citizens, but it also provides a good environment for the nation’s economic growth and prosperity.

Good work-life balance: According to OECD, the share of Swiss employees working very long hours is only 0.4 percent — one of the lowest rates in the OECD, where the average is 11 percent. 
This means that people have much more time to spend on recreational, leisure or sports activities, which boost their overall well-being and quality of life.

That may be one of the reasons why people in Switzerland are more satisfied with their lives than residents of other OECD nations. When asked to rate their general satisfaction level on a scale from 0 to 10, Swiss people gave it a 7.5 grade —higher than the OECD average of 6.5.

Freedom: Switzerland is rated in the second place worldwide in the Human Freedom Index, which measures personal, civil, and economic freedom. Why is this an important indicator of a high quality of life? Researchers say that “One of the reasons for the political pursuit of freedom is the belief that this will add to greater happiness for a greater number of citizens. The common-sense theory behind this belief is that life will be more satisfying if we can live the way we want”.

Sense of inclusion: Switzerland’s highly participatory form of direct democracy gives all citizens a say in the political process that determines their present and future lives. This system creates a government that is accountable to its citizens. Freedom to make choices fosters the sense of well-being, which, in turn, leads to better quality of life 

These are some of the reasons why Switzerland gets such high scores in international rankings.

by Helena Bachmann

What do YOU think are the country’s biggest strengths? And weaknesses for that matter?
 


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