Switzerland is known for its wealth.
Although most Swiss residents are likely to be viewed as ‘rich’ on a world-wide basis, it is also home to more ‘mega-rich’ people per capita than any other nation.
Zug and Schwyz top the list per capita
The small, central cantons of Zug and Schwyz have beaten out the larger, better known cantons like Zurich and Geneva when it comes to the amount of millionaires on a per capita basis.
According to analysis of government figures completed by Swiss tabloid Blick, one in eight residents of these cantons are millionaires.
This compares with one in 16 per 1,000 taxpayers for the rest of Switzerland.
There are 132 millionaires per 1,000 taxpayers in Zug and 125 per 1,000 in Schwyz.
This is followed by Nidwalden (104), while Switzerland’s least populous canton is in fourth place: Appenzeller Innerrhoden (93).
Zurich, Switzerland’s most populous canton, is in fifth place – which also means it has the most millionaires in total.
There are 92 millionaires per 1,000 taxpayers in Zurich.
The highest-placing French-speaking canton is Geneva, where there are 62 millionaires per 1,000 taxpayers, followed by Vaud with 57.
Why Zug and Schwyz?
While they’re picturesque, it may seem somewhat surprising that these two cantons attract the most millionaires on a per capita basis.
However, a major reason for this is these cantons low tax rates, which attract high-income individuals from other parts of the country and indeed the world.
Christoph Schaltegger, professor of political economy at the University of Lucerne, told Blick that this was a good thing for smaller cantons.
“It gives remote and structurally weak regions the opportunity to assert themselves against attractive urban centres,” he said.
While larger regions like Zurich “have a lot to offer”, smaller regions need to use tax law as a way to compete.
Schaltegger argues that this is important for nationwide equality, as otherwise “the gap between town and country would widen, the periphery would be left behind.”
Kurt Schmidheiny (51), economics professor at the University of Basel, told Blick that other factors such as costs of housing are far less likely to play a role for the mega-rich than taxation.
“For a multimillionaire, higher housing costs hardly play a role – no matter how luxurious they are,” Schmidheiny said.
“Moving to a tax haven is only worthwhile for them.”
More millionaires per capita
While precise estimates are difficult to come by, Switzerland is home to the fourth largest number of millionaires (based in US dollars) of any country in the world.
According to pre-pandemic estimates by Credit Suisse, Switzerland’s 810,000 millionaires places it fourth after the United States (15 million), China (1.3 million) and Japan (1.1 million).
But it is on a per capita basis where Switzerland’s shiny wealth really captures the eye, with Switzerland’s population far smaller than the United States, China and Japan.
There are 62 millionaires for every 1,000 Swiss taxpayers.
This has increased from 11 per 1,000 taxpayers in 1969.
But the location of those millionaires – i.e. in which of Switzerland’s 26 cantons they live – may be surprising, both to Swiss residents and those abroad.