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Living in Switzerland For Members

What are the hardest parts of life in Switzerland right now?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What are the hardest parts of life in Switzerland right now?
Not everything is positive in Switzerland. Image by WOKANDAPIX from Pixabay

If you think of Switzerland as solid and stable, you are not wrong. But there are more volatile sides to life in the country as well.

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When the US News & World Report bestowed upon Switzerland the title of the “World’s Best Country in 2023” (for the sixth time),  it explained that its choice was based, among other criteria, on the nation’s ‘consistency.’

“There is something pleasantly constant about Switzerland,” the report stated.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland ranks as the 'world’s best country' — again 

Is Switzerland really that ‘constant’ or does it have its ‘extremes as well?

It is true that, unlike the political, economic, and social volatility and upheavals of many other countries, Switzerland is comparably far more stable.

Its inflation is lower, employment rate higher, economy stronger, and infrastructure better than in any other countries.

However, if you assess the country objectively rather than through rose-tinted glasses, and especially when looking at it from inside rather than outside, some weak spots emerge.

Switzerland is certainly not as ‘extreme’ as some other countries in terms of a huge income disparity, or access to healthcare and other services, but these situations do exist.

Let’s have a look at some of them.

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Healthcare

On the positive side, because of the obligatory basic insurance scheme that has been in place since the mid-1990s, everyone in Switzerland has a good access to excellent health services — which should certainly not be taken for granted, as this is not necessarily the case in some countries, including the United States.
 
READ ALSO: How does the Swiss healthcare system compare with the US?

This easy access to excellent healthcare is one of the main reasons why Switzerland’s population is not only generally healthy, but also has one of the highest life expectancies in the world.

However, on the other hand (and this is where the flipside comes in), this high-quality care costs a lot of money — more than many families and individuals are able to afford.

With the 8.7-percent average hikes for health insurance premiums to go into effect in 2024, the financial burden on practically every Swiss household (except possibly the wealthiest ones), is considerable.

Yes, cantons do offer subsidies for people who spend more than 10 percent of their income on health insurance premiums.

But there is an obvious paradox when in a wealthy country like Switzerland, about 30 percent of the population can’t pay their healthcare premiums and depends on the government aid (and in Geneva this proportion is even higher — over 40 percent).

There have been ongoing discussions on the legislative level to find cost-cutting measures, but nothing concrete (and acceptable to everyone) has yet been found.

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Housing/rents

Switzerland and its cities consistently rank highly in international surveys measuring the quality of life.

Its residents appreciate (and rightly so) Switzerland’s employment opportunities and wages; health system, public transport network, environmental quality, education opportunities, work-life balance, and personal security.

However, a very important aspect of the overall quality of life — affordable housing — is a major problem.

Whether this is due to increasing numbers of new immigrants who, according to some, put added pressure on housing and rent prices, scarcity of building land, or just the general evolution of the market, the fact is that the number of residents in Switzerland’s major cities is growing, and the supply of accommodation — especially affordable one — is lagging.

Various solutions are being discussed at the political level — including  simplifying building permit procedures, so that more housing can be built.

But in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Switzerland’s residents are desperately trying to find adequate accommodations they can actually afford.

READ ALSO: How bad is Switzerland's housing shortage and what can be done about it?

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Work stress 

According to the World Happiness Report 2023, a publication from the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network that draws on global survey data from people in about 150 countries, Switzerland still ranks among the top 10 happiest countries on earth.

Given that factors to measure happiness include GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, and the freedom to make life choices, it becomes evident where the Swiss get their contentment from.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland is one of the world's 'happiest countries'

All this is good, but let’s look at another statistic: a recent study has shown that 60 percent of Switzerland’s workforce suffers from stress (they are probably not the ones who participated in the Happiness survey).
 
Of those, 62 percent said their employers don’t do enough to help combat stress, and three in five employees noted that their mental health declined this year as a result of workplace stress. 

Obviously, if you suffer from distress and burnout, you can’t be truly happy.

These are just some of the ‘extremes’ that can be found in Switzerland.

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