Swiss Industry – engineering, banking and food

Industrially the Swiss punch above their weight – with a population of just over 7 million they are world leaders in certain sectors and this is a large part of the reason for the high level of average wealth of the Swiss people. The success of the Swiss can be put down to an enterprising mentality, hard work, high investment, no strikes, technical knowledge and a pro-business climate. Of course the relative shortage of raw materials has required the Swiss to build up their processing and manufacturing capabilities.

45% of exports are from engineering businesses, where the Swiss have earned a reputation for very high quality standards and reliability. Machinery, including machine tools and printing equipment, and electromechanics are the driving force of this sector and are mostly located near Zurich, Winterthur and Baden. Surprisingly perhaps the clock and watch-making industries are still important in Swiss exports. Swatch is an example of how the industry has focused on fashion and moved into higher value areas.

Chemical and pharmaceuticals are also very important export industries with Roche and Novartis being notable for their size and the degree of research and development. Switzerland has also become a favourite place for the European headquarters of US multinationals such as Dow Chemical, based in Horgen near Zurich..

Food processing is a big business and Nestle, based in Vevey, is the largest food company in the world. Swiss chocolate has a high reputation abroad and over half of the country’s production is exported. The label “Swiss Chocolate” is heavily regulated and requires total production in Switzerland and use of certain ingredients only. Famous chocolate pioneers include Suchard, Lindt, Sprungli, Cailler and Nestle.

The service industries make enormous contributions towards the balance of payments – in particular the tourist and financial sectors. Over 60% of the four million strong workforce works in the service industries. Tourism employs about 300,000 people directly or indirectly.

Banks and insurance companies are typically based in Zurich and big examples are the UBS, Credit Suisse, and the reinsurer SwissRe. There are also strong regional banks mostly cantonal which are well-capitalised and loyally supported by inhabitants of each region.

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