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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

UPDATED: What the Swiss worry about the most

Ukraine? Covid? Cost of living? New research shows what sits atop the Swiss list of worries (and what does not).

UPDATED: What the Swiss worry about the most
Covid and its aftermath preoccupied most Swiss in 2021. Photo by shahin khalaji on Unsplash

Everyone, everywhere in the world, must worry about something. So while having something to worry about is not exclusive to Switzerland, putting together an itemised and ordered list of the public’s biggest worries is very Swiss indeed. 

Two recently released studies chronicle what Switzerland is worried about. The different conclusions show just how quickly things can change. 

One survey, released by Credit Suisse on the basis of data from 2021, had Covid atop the list. Another, put together by financial comparison site Moneyland just a few weeks later, showed Ukraine was the number one concern, illustrating just how quickly things can change. 

Credit Suisse 

Each year, Credit Suisse carries out a survey, aptly named Swiss Worry Barometer, to find out main concerns of Switzerland’s  population — and that includes permanent foreign residents, not just Swiss nationals. The bank just released its findings for 2021.

Survey participants were asked to list their five most pressing worries and, not surprisingly, “the Covid pandemic and its impact held the top spot for 2021”, the study found, with 40 percent of respondents citing the pandemic as their number-one fear.

Last year was indeed a very eventful year on the epidemiological front, which included a major outbreak in the winter, followed by the emergence of the highly virulent Delta variant, which sparked worries about the possibility of Switzerland’s healthcare system becoming saturated.

Later in the year, coronavirus vaccines and the Covid certificate requirement stirred up one of the greatest controversies in recent times, creating dissent and divisiveness in the previously complacent nation.

READ MORE: ‘High degree of aggressiveness’: How Covid has changed Switzerland

However, Covid was considered “somewhat less urgent” in 2021 than in the previous year, when 51 percent of survey participants listed this disease as their top concern.

As Credit Suisse remarked when it published the 2020 report, “this is the first time in the history of the Worry Barometer that an entirely new issue has so clearly topped the list of people’s worries”.

In the second place (both at 39 percent) are climate change and the old-age pension, followed by Switzerland’s relationship with the EU, which worried 33 percent of the respondents.

Next are healthcare / health insurance costs (25 percent), foreigners (20), refugees / asylum seekers (19), increased housing and rental costs (17), as well as unemployment and energy supply security, both 14 percent.

Relating specifically to foreigners, an issue that preoccupies one in five respondents, Credit Suisse says that this concern “should be seen against the background of the immigration of highly qualified workers on the one hand, and concern about refugees and asylum seekers on the other, which is more related to concerns about possible ‘foreign infiltration’ and increasing pressure on social security”.

The positive news is that “when it came to foreigners, the proportion of Swiss people who count these among the country’s five biggest problems has decreased”, according to Credit Suisse.

“This is probably partly due to the fact that migration has not been an absolute priority in Switzerland for a number of years”.

Ukraine now tops the list

However, an even newer study, carried out by Moneyland.ch consumer website, reports that “the Ukraine conflict is now the biggest worry among residents of Switzerland”.

On the other hand, “the Swiss largely consider the pandemic to be ended. The coronavirus did not even land a place in the top 20 biggest causes of worry among residents of Switzerland”.

The reason for this disparity is that Credit Suisse survey covered 2021, when Covid was the dominant issue in the country and nobody suspected that Russia would invade Ukraine in the near future.

The Moneyland study was conducted in April, which explains why the public’s main concerns have shifted.

However, some worries that showed up in last year’s study still preoccupy many Swiss today. Among them are climate change (57 percent of respondents), the state of the environment (54 percent), and cost of health insurance premiums (51).

Will worries in 2022 be different from last year’s?

As the year is still young, it is impossible to make an accurate prediction about what will preoccupy the Swiss public most in 2022.

However, based on the first five months of the year, the following concerns are likely to weigh heavy, not necessarily in this order:

  • Ukrainian refugees
  • Energy supply and costs
  • Inflation and price of consumer goods
  • Switzerland’s security

A lot will depend on how the war in Ukraine unfolds in the coming months. We also can’t predict yet to what extent coronavirus will re-emerge this fall, what new variants may be in circulation, and how contagious / virulent they would be.

There are still a lot of unknowns ahead of us, so let’s not worry about that just yet.

Do you want to go back in time and see what the Swiss worries about in 2016 and 2018? Read about it here:

Barometer: Swiss worried about foreigners, pensions and jobs

New Worry Barometer shows what keeps the Swiss awake at night
 

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HOUSING

Can a Swiss landlord charge a fee if you renounce to rent an apartment?

Say you signed a registration for a flat in Switzerland, but then changed your mind. What, if any, fees are you liable for if you decide to withdraw your application?

Can a Swiss landlord charge a fee if you renounce to rent an apartment?

In some areas of Switzerland, good and reasonably priced rental properties are difficult to come by, so once you find one, you hold on to it for dear life.

But it can also happen that you change your mind for whatever reason and no longer want to proceed with the rental.

What happens then?

Some rental agencies’ registration forms include a clause stating that if you cancel after a contract has been prepared, you have to pay between 150 and 200 to cover administration costs — even if the contract hasn’t yet been signed.

This is ostensibly for all the time and effort that went into preparing the lease.

If you are unfamiliar with Swiss laws, you may feel a duty to pay these fees, believing that if you don’t, Swiss rental police will knock on your door.

But you can relax: apart from the fact that there’s no such thing in Switzerland as “rental police”, you don’t owe the agency or landlord anything.

That is because registrations and applications of any kind —  including those for rental properties — are non-binding until both parties have signed them. Up to this point, an application can be withdrawn without incurring any costs, even if the agency / landlord have you believe otherwise.

READ MORE: REVEALED: The six major Swiss cities where rents are falling

Why are landlords / rental agencies engaging in this practice?

To be fair, not all of them will attempt to make you pay for failing to sign the lease. Those who do are hoping you don’t know your legal rights, especially if you are a foreigner who (they hope) is still green behind the ears when it comes to rental regulations in Switzerland.

However, according to the official site of canton of Geneva (but this rule applies nationally), some exceptions could be admissible.

If applicants are not acting in “good faith” — for instance, by belatedly expressing their refusal to sign the lease and delaying the rental process while other potential tenants are kept waiting —  the landlord could ask to be compensated.

This is not a clear black-and-white situation though, as “good faith” calls for subjective judgements, ones that the landlord or rental agency could not make unless they have proof that candidates’ actions were dishonest — which is also difficult to prove.

But even in this case, the landlord “could only invoice his actual costs: the costs of drafting the lease contract and sending it out, for example”, according to the Swiss Tenants Association (ASLOCA).

You should also inform yourself about what your landlord can and cannot demand of you.

“You have to remember that just because something is written in the lease doesn’t mean it’s true”, ASLOCA said.

“Lease law is protective of the tenant and takes into consideration that the latter does not necessarily have the possibility or the resources to read and carefully negotiate any clause of his lease”.

If uncertain of what your rights and obligations are, this official government site provides useful information and  resources, including who, in your canton of residence, can help in case of a dispute with your landlord.

READ MORE: Tenant in Switzerland? Here’s how to apply for a rent reduction

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