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How the strengths and weaknesses of the Swiss economy will impact you

How the strengths and weaknesses of the Swiss economy will impact you
Experts explain how Swiss economy (and population) will fare in months ahead. Photo: Pixabay

While the economies of many countries are struggling, Switzerland’s is doing well in comparison. What exactly are its strengths and weaknesses? And how will they impact you?

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In its new analysis published on Tuesday, the Swiss Economic Institute (KOF) lays out the forecast for Switzerland’s economy.

Some of it is positive, and some less so.

On the whole, however, and given the difficult situation of the past two years, the outlook is promising (read more about this below).

Things are not always what they seem

Economists, like KOF’s director Jan-Egbert Sturm, point out that though the public’s perception of the current economic situation is skewed toward the negative, it is not necessarily so.

“The increase in prices in Switzerland was significantly lower than in neighbouring countries,” he said in an interview with Blick newspaper. 

So is inflation: even at its height in 2022, when it exceeded the 3-percent mark (a very high figure for Switzerland), it was still well below the EU average.

Today, the rate stands at below 2 percent — still lower than elsewhere in Europe

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland's inflation rate has stayed low compared to elsewhere

 Another ‘misconception’ is that consumption habits in Switzerland have been impacted by inflation.

The general view is that “there is some reluctance to buy new, larger goods like washing machines or cars. But if we look at the figures closely, we see that consumption is evolving in a relatively stable manner,” Sturm said.

“The Swiss economy is generally quite solid,” he added.

Another plus: "the labour market remains robust, especially thanks to the services sector," Sturm pointed out.

Companies are more reluctant to let employees go not only because there are not enough qualified workers to fill job vacancies, but also because employers “learned during the pandemic that they must be careful not to lay off workers too quickly,” so as not to create shortages when the crisis passes.  

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Why does Swiss economy generally fare well in crises — and in general?

There are several reasons for that: 

Low unemployment / high employment

This dynamic fuels economic prosperity because it means that as people earn income, they not only spend more (thus boosting consumption), but they also pay taxes which fill up the government’s coffers.

And when that happens, everyone in Switzerland benefits: the cantons and their finances profit from the strength of the Swiss economy, as the federal government distributes some of its profits to cantons.

The government’s role

The Swiss are financially-savvy, which bodes well for the economy.

Take the debt brake, for instance.

According to the government, it is a mechanism designed to “prevent chronic deficits and keep federal debt from soaring".

Just as it is for private spending, the government must be careful not to exceed the set 'expenditure ceiling.’

“With a debt ratio of around 30 percent of gross domestic product, Switzerland remains in excellent shape by international standards,” the government pointed out. “The debt brake has not only significantly helped Switzerland to overcome multiple crises relatively well; it has also allowed for a considerable reduction in federal debt."

According to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), “Switzerland’s public finances rank amongst the best in terms of solidity."

READ ALSO : What is Switzerland’s debt brake and how does it affect residents?

All these factors combined have kept Switzerland’s afloat (or at least from drowning) during various global downturns, including the Covid pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine which sparked spiralling inflation in many places. 

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But there are weak points as well

One of them is the strong franc.

Actually, its strength vis-à-vis the euro and US dollar is a double-edged sword.

On the positive side it benefits the import industry and, ultimately, the consumer.

But it is quite the opposite for exports.

Switzerland relies heavily on trade with the EU, mainly Germany, but when the euro is weaker than the franc, Swiss goods are too expensive abroad — especially if countries concerned are in recession and simply can’t afford to buy from Switzerland.

For this reason, Swiss industries that depend on exports, usually feel the ‘crunch’ more than import-based sectors.

Also, the strong franc may very well enable Switzerland-based earners to enjoy numerous stays abroad, but it also makes holidays in Switzerland very pricy for overseas tourists. This, in turn, has a negative effect on the Swiss economy as well.

Therefore, the state of Switzerland’s economy is not entirely in its own hands, but depends on forces beyond its control.

As KOF puts it, “the sluggish global economy is slowing the growth of the Swiss economy" as well.

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What can we expect ahead?

This is where the good news comes in.

"Real wage increases are expected following the declines of recent years," KOF says. “This will boost purchasing power and, together with population growth, should support private consumption.

Therefore, “households’ spending is expected to increase in the coming year. This trend will be supported by a gradual levelling-​off of inflation and a sharper rise in disposable incomes."

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