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2012 Credit Suisse Worry Barometer

Unemployment is Greatest Concern Again – Swiss People Nevertheless Generally Optimistic

Unemployment once again occupies the top position in the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer survey this year. Despite the economic crisis in Europe, the respondents are, however, optimistic about the future: The majority consider Switzerland's economic situation to be stable, while one-fifth anticipate that it may improve. This economic optimism may come as a surprise in view of the problems in Europe. This optimism is also reflected in private consumption and, according to the research institute gfs.bern, is most likely to be due to the robust domestic market. The fact that unemployment nevertheless remains the main concern for the 10th year in succession can be attributed to the fact that since the weak economic growth of the 1990s, a high level of employment – together with other social issues – has been regarded as a key factor behind Switzerland's ability to function.

After concerns about unemployment, worries about retirement provision and healthcare occupied the next two top positions every year from 2003 to 2010. This hierarchy has now changed for the second time in succession, although these "traditional worries" have lost none of their relevance. Overall, it appears that respondents are concerned about a wider variety of issues, and the percentages for each have declined accordingly.

René Buholzer, Head of Public Policy at Credit Suisse, said: "The Credit Suisse Worry Barometer has made an important contribution to the public debate for 36 years. The consistent methodology applied in the survey enables a long-term evaluation and facilitates the identification of trends that are of importance to decision-makers in politics, business and society. This year's survey confirms our impression that the Swiss economy has performed well to date. This is due, in particular, to the innovative strength and adaptability of its companies in an international comparison. In addition, the Swiss economy has benefited from a robust domestic market with strong private consumption."

Few Economic Concerns
Economic worries were once again of secondary importance to respondents in the 2012 Credit Suisse Worry Barometer. The financial crisis came in at 14 percent, putting it in 13th place among the 34 alternatives given; the economic crisis was 20th, at 9 percent, and concerns about the stock market ranked 24th, at 7 percent. The euro crisis, which was included in the survey for the first time, immediately appeared as the top six worry at 22 percent. Given the generally positive assessment of economic trends, it appears that a substantial proportion of the population believes that the Swiss economy is sound and that the euro crisis will not have a serious and sustained impact on the country.

Securing State Retirement Provision as a Current Objective
Securing retirement benefits continues to be one of the main concerns of the Swiss population. After declining in the previous year, the share of respondents who are concerned about the Old Age and Survivors’ Insurance system (AHV) has risen to 36 percent, placing this issue within the (lower) range of the long-term trend. Those expressing the greatest concern, however, are the current recipients of state retirement provision – who evidently fear drastic cuts – rather than younger people. This worry is more pronounced among women than men, and is considerably greater among the urban than the rural population. Ninety-five percent therefore deem securing retirement benefits to be a very important current objective that politicians should address. Probably because health insurance premiums are increasing at a slower rate, the level of concern about healthcare has remained at 30 percent, which is low compared to in the past.

Increased Environmental Awareness
Concerns about personal safety and social security, which had steadily increased in recent years, declined slightly. The next set of problems includes environmental and energy concerns, which remain topical issues against the backdrop of this year’s Rio + 20 environmental summit and the continuing debate about abandoning nuclear energy. General awareness of environmental issues increased slightly, to 18 percent, compared to the previous year. However, Switzerland is far from the figures recorded between 1988 and 1995, which averaged 56 percent, although these values are expected to increase in the future. Asked what the biggest problems will be for future generations, respondents listed the environment and climate as their top concerns, along with a lack of employment.

Politicians Rarely Fail
Since 1995, the Worry Barometer has surveyed whether business leaders and those running government and public administration often or rarely fail on key issues. The long-term trend shows better results for business than for politicians. This year, however, over half of the population has indirectly given politicians a vote of confidence by responding that they seldom fail; only once before, in 1998, was this the case. Forty-eight percent of respondents indicate that economic leaders, too, “seldom fail,” but the percentages are considerably lower than the long-term average.

General Loss of Confidence
As far as the question specifically regarding confidence is concerned, institutions such as the police force, the Federal Supreme Court and the Federal Council continue to enjoy the greatest level of confidence. However, a general loss of confidence has been observed over the past two years. While confidence in the institutions listed was still at an average level of 60 percent in 2010, this figure had dropped to 53 percent last year and stood at only 47 percent in the current survey. The main reasons for this are the lower indicators for confidence in the media, banks, trade associations, unions and employer organizations. As in previous years, the European Union is at the bottom of the list. The record-low percentages are in keeping with an increase in skepticism toward foreigners in Switzerland.

The Swiss are Proud of their Country
The latest Credit Suisse "Identity" survey, which was conducted at the same time as the 2012 Worry Barometer, reveals that 86% of the Swiss are proud of their country. This matches the record results of 2007; only 11 percent of the population did not express pride in their country, fewer than ever before. This national pride is based much more on political factors in 2012 than it was in the previous year. At the top of the list of such factors are neutrality and independence. A large number of respondents also mentioned citizens’ rights and opportunities for participation. Looking only at the rates of increase, the results are particularly striking for the Federal Constitution and the militia system. Overall, it is clear that the Swiss are again more conscious, as well as proud, of their country’s special political solutions.
Responses to the question about Switzerland’s five greatest strengths also showed a slight shift toward political factors compared with the previous year. Neutrality and education, for which the values have almost doubled since 2006, top the list. Respondents also attach a great deal of importance to the right of participation. However, Swiss quality, which had ranked at the very top for years, declined dramatically in importance. Next were peace as well as order and cleanliness, two related concepts that, following a steady decline, have once again gained in importance.

Representative Survey
What are the biggest worries of the Swiss? And how much confidence do they have in decision-makers in the fields of politics, business and society? For the past 36 years, Credit Suisse has conducted an annual Worry Barometer survey to examine these issues. Between July 30 and August 31, 2012, the research institute gfs.bern asked 1,000 voters throughout Switzerland about their concerns on behalf of Credit Suisse. Respondents could select their five most important concerns from a list of 34.