Estudios Económicos


Population 8.3 million
GDP 80,346 US$
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major macro economic indicators

  2015 2016 2017(f) 2018(f)
GDP growth (%) 1.2 1.4 0.9 2.0
Inflation (yearly average, %) -1.1 -0.4 0.3 0.5
Budget balance (% GDP) 0.1 0.3 0.3 0.3
Current account balance (% GDP) 11.4 9.5 9.8 10.0
Public debt (% GDP) 46.6 45.7 44.9 43.2

(f): forecast





  • Stability and political, economic and social consensus, linked with direct democracy
  • Close relations with the European Union, except for agriculture
  • Balanced public accounts despite relatively low taxation
  • Limited sensitivity of exports to exchange rates; high technology, quality
  • Strength of external surpluses
  • Low unemployment and diversified labour
  • European crossroads with excellent communication network


  • Small, open and landlocked economy
  • Overvalued Swiss franc seen as a safe-haven, sensitivity to global economy
  • Level of dependence on commodity trade, financial services and the presence of multinational companies
  • House prices and high level of household debt (almost 200% of disposable incomes)
  • Presence of systemic banking establishments
  • Ageing demographic offset by immigration (foreign labour makes up 30% of the workforce)


Economy benefiting from European upturn and weakening franc

In 2017, the economy succeeded in adapting to the strong franc and achieved moderate growth. Thanks to productivity improvements and cost reductions, companies have largely restored their margins that had contracted as a result of the price cuts made to try and offset the appreciation of the Swiss franc following the lifting of the exchange ceiling by the Swiss National Bank (SNB) in January 2015. 2018 should see a sharp upturn. The business and consumer confidence indexes at the end of 2017 point towards this. Both domestic demand and foreign trade will contribute towards this. Despite the slow rate of growth in wages, the gradual improvement in the jobs market will help sustain household consumption. Investment is expected to rise, that by companies and households helping boost that by the Federation, the Cantons and Communes which is flagging. Thanks to the strong market outlook and with the production capacity utilisation rate in October 2017 reaching its highest level since 2012, there should be a strong upturn for equipment. Research and development, which also suffered following the appreciation of the Swiss franc, should also feel the benefits. To a lesser extent, cheap credit will also help boost construction, in particular residential. Exports are also likely to benefit from the positive movement in European, US and Asian economies, as well as from the drop in the real effective exchange rate since the second half of 2017. Pharmaceuticals (30% of exports) and engineering, not overly sensitive to prices, and thus to the franc, will remain strong. Machines, and industry in general (precision instruments, in particular medical, agri-food, electrical equipment, chemicals), financial services, commodity trading, tourism and transport are expected to perform better. The recovery will be less visible for watch making (11% of exports) which will again suffer with the slowdown in the Chinese economy. The outlook will remain difficult for retail trade, facing competition from foreign supermarkets in the border regions, and hotel and catering sectors, despite the gradual return of foreign customers, as well as for metallurgy, wood, paper, printing and clothing. Given these conditions, the number of company insolvencies, on the rise since 2014, should, at the least, stabilise, despite a rate of insolvency that will remain high in the construction, hotel, catering and retail sectors.


External accounts in surplus and accommodative monetary policy

There is a sizeable current account surplus. This consists of a surplus for goods (7.9% of GDP in 2016), as well as a surplus for services (2.9%) mainly generated by finance, licences and patents, exceeding the remittances of foreign workers (3.8%) which have increase significantly as the numbers of foreign workers have grown (in excess of 300,000). Even after removing the trade in commodities (3.9%), the surplus is still 4%. In addition, the recurrence of surpluses has enabled the creation of sizeable assets abroad to the extent that the net external credit position is equal to 130% of GDP.

In order to prevent any further appreciation in the franc, the SNB will have to continue its very flexible policies. Its key lending rate will continue to be negative (-0.75% in November 2017), as will the three-month LIBOR (range of -0.25 to -1.25%). However, the weakening on the franc should remove the need for the SNB to buy assets in foreign currencies, the balances of which are in excess of the GDP. The exposure of the banking system to property will continue at a high level as 80% of domestic lending is in this sector. The fact that only 45% of households are home-owners reveals how high the debt levels of borrowers must be. Households do however have assets that are equal to three times their debts and non-performing loans account for less than 3% of the total. In addition, the applicable prudential regulations have been and will be strengthened. Two establishments hold half of domestic assets within the sector, alongside Cantonal, cooperative and small private establishments. Whilst maintaining close external links, they have significantly reduced their balance sheets since the crisis with a focus on managing assets for third parties.


Solid public accounts

In compliance with the budget rule approved in 2003 by the Federation and replicated by most Cantons, a structural equilibrium has been enforced for the public accounts. In the event of significant worsening in local economic conditions, the Federal and Cantonal authorities, by a vote of the representative assemblies, would have significant expansionary budgetary discretion. The public debt is split equally between the Federation, on one hand, and the Cantons and Communes, on the other. The cost of this is very low with a zero or negative yield on bonds of 10 year or less (October 2017). Budgetary policy will remain uncontentious. The three parties on the right and centre-right (Democratic Union of the Centre, le Christian-Democratic People’s Party and the FDP-Liberal Party) will dominate the Federal Assembly and the National Council (executive of 7 members with a rotating annual presidency) until the next elections scheduled for 2019. The Socialist Party has two seats on the Council. The major areas of debate will remain immigration, relations with the EU, as well as reforms to pensions and corporate taxation.


Last update : January 2018



Bills of exchange and cheques are not commonly used owing to prohibitive banking and tax charges; the stamp duty on bills of exchange is 0.75% of the principal amount, for domestic bills, and 1.5% for international bills.

Similarly, commercial operators are particularly demanding as regards the formal validity of cheques and bills of exchange as payment instruments.


Domestic and international payments are commonly made by bank transfer, especially via the SWIFT electronic network to which the major Swiss banks are connected and which provides speedy and efficient processing of payments at low cost.



Debt collection


The Swiss legal system presents technical specificities, as follows :


  • The existence of an administrative authority “Enforcement and Bankruptcy Office”(e.g. Office des poursuites et des faillites / Betreibungs und Konkursamt / Ufficio di esecuzione e fallimenti) in each canton, with several offices at local government level, which is responsible for executing court orders and whose functioning is regulated by federal law.

Interested parties may consult or obtain extracts of the Office’s records.


  • The issuance of a new unified civil procedure code, set up by a commission of experts, approved by the Federal Council and which became effective as of 1st January 2011.

The enactment of this code entails the repeal of the 26 cantonal procedure laws which were an obstacle to a safe and timely justice.

However a lawsuit requires the assistance of a lawyer familiar with the court organisation of the place where the case is instituted, as well as with the language to be used to conduct the litigation (French, German or Italian).


This Act states several sorts of procedures depending on the content or the monetary value of the dispute and stipulates that the parties must make an attempt at conciliation or submit to mediation, before requesting full trial.


The debt collection process commences with the issuing of final notice preferably by recorded delivery (thus making it possible to accrue past-due interest) asking the debtor to pay, within two weeks, the principal amount increased by past-due interest calculated – unless otherwise agreed by the parties – at the legal rate which is 5%.


In the absence of payment, the creditor will submit a duly completed and signed petition form (réquisition de poursuite) to the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Office which then serves the debtor with a final order to pay within twenty days starting from the date of the notification of the petition.


While very easy to use by creditors, that procedure nonetheless permits debtors to oppose the order within ten days of being served, without having to specify grounds.


In such case, the only alternative for creditors is to seek redress through the courts.


Conversely, where a seller holds unconditional proof of debt signed by the buyer (any original document in which the buyer recognises his debt, bill of exchange, cheque, etc.), he may request the temporary liftingof the debtor’s opposition (main levée de l’opposition) without having to appear before the court.


This is a simplified procedure, quick and relatively easy to obtain, in which the court’s decision is based upon the documents submitted by the seller.


Once this lifting order has been granted, the debtor has twenty days in which to refer the case before the judge to obtain the debt’s release (libération de dette) and, in turn, obtain an executory order.

That entails initiating a formal and now unified procedure – including a written phase and an oral phase with possible examination of witnesses during court hearings – lasting from one to three years according to the canton.

Legal costs vary widely depending on the rates charged by the various cantons.


Once the court hands down a final ruling, upon request of prosecution, the Enforcement and Bankruptcy Office delivers an execution order or a winding-up petition (commination de faillite).

This winding-up petition enables the creditor to send to court a request of bankruptcy. Upon receipt of this request, the court will fix a hearing by inviting both, creditor and debtor in written.

Without payment from debtor or withdrawal of the request on the part of the creditor who made the request, the court will declare the debtor company bankrupt.


Either a court of first instance or a district court hears legal procedures. Commercial courts, presided by a panel of professional and non-professional judges, exist in four Germanic cantons : Aargau,Berne, Saint-Gall, and Zürich.


Once an appeal has been lodged with the cantonal court, as a last resort for claims exceeding 30,000 Swiss francs (CHF), cases are heard by the main federal judicial institution, the Swiss Federal Court (Tribunal fédéral Suisse / Schweizerisches Bundesgericht / Tribunale federale svizzero) located inLausanne.


The other federal institutions are the Federal Criminal Court (Tribunal pénal fédéral / Bundesstrafgericht / Tribunale penale federale), located in Bellinzone, which was set up in April 2004, and the Federal Administrative Court (Tribunal administratif fédéral / Bundesverwaltungsgericht / Tribunale amministrativo federale), which began operations in January 2007, and has been established in Saint-Gall since July 2012.

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