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2013 Credit Suisse Worry Barometer

Great Confidence in Institutions and Decision-Makers; Unemployment Still the Main Worry

In Credit Suisse's 2013 Worry Barometer survey, the majority of Swiss people describe their personal economic situation as good, and more than three-quarters of them express confidence in the country's economic development. They have an accordingly positive opinion of political and economic decision-makers: Confidence in institutions and decision-makers has increased significantly since 2012. The respondents would like to see a more self-confident attitude toward other countries, however. As in previous years, unemployment is the main worry, although the urgency has decreased considerably. Some slight shifts occurred in the worries that were named, as compared to the last few years. The seven most-cited worries in 2013 have long been in the top ten.

Swiss people's top ten worries in 2013 revolve around societal and social issues with a more or less direct relationship to security. Tangible issues that affect people personally, such as wages and unemployment, take precedence, while macroeconomic worries remain in the background. Unemployment is at the top of the Credit Suisse Worry Barometer for the 11th straight year, and 44% of Swiss people still name it as one of their main worries. This percentage is significantly lower than in previous years, however (2012: 49%; 2011: 52%). There has long been a correlation between the effective unemployment rate in Switzerland and concerns about joblessness. Worry about unemployment was at its highest in the years with particularly high jobless rates, specifically 1993, 1997 and 2010. The unemployment rate since then has remained stable at around three percent.

René Buholzer, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability at Credit Suisse, said: "This year's Credit Suisse Worry Barometer shows that Swiss people's confidence in our country's key decision-makers has increased significantly and is higher than ever. Politics and business are an excellent testimony to the effect a stable economic situation has on Switzerland. It's unsurprising that neutrality, education, and stability were identified in the survey as the country's greatest strengths. I am particularly pleased to see that the important role of education for a country that is lacking in natural resources like Switzerland is receiving recognition."

Immigration Issues Remain Current
As in 2012, foreigners immigrating to Switzerland (free movement of persons) continues to rank second of the main concerns, unchanged at 37%. Although it is generally recognized that the economy depends on skilled foreign workers immigrating to Switzerland, integration is causing quite a headache. Some see the foreign workers as competition. Despite increasing numbers of asylum seekers, concerns about immigration decreased (28%, -4 percentage points (pp)).

Great Need for Security
Swiss people continue to be very concerned about safety and security issues. Personal safety, in terms of crime and violence, has gained importance (24%, +3pp), as has the security of social welfare (21%, +2pp). State retirement provision also belongs in this set of problems as the number-three worry, as respondents fear that individual retirement provisions are insufficient;
29% (-7pp) of those surveyed named it as one of their main worries.

Equitable distribution of wealth is of somewhat greater concern (worry about wages/new poverty) as are the environment and natural resources (energy issues and environmental protection worries), but less than one-fifth of those surveyed named them as one of the most important problems facing Switzerland.

In contrast, worries about the integration into the European Union and the euro crisis are less dominant than they were last year. Although the financial and economic crisis is still ongoing in many parts of the European Union, a majority of those surveyed believe that Switzerland is strong enough to avoid being drawn in to a possible pan-European crisis.

Economic Situation Gives Reasons for Optimism
Swiss people generally have positive feelings about their economic situation, even against the backdrop of the tenser situation in Southern Europe. 56% of respondents (-3pp) describe their personal economic situation as good or very good. And 90% (-2pp) are confident that their personal economic situation will at least stay the same. Never before have so many Swiss people (22%) been convinced that things will go (even) better for them next year than they are this year. As for the general economic situation, an unchanged 72% believe that things in Switzerland are at least as good as they were last year. No less than 78% (+7pp) are of the belief that Switzerland will do at least as well, or even better, in the next 12 months.

The positive attitude toward the economic situation is also reflected by the fact that 53% (+3pp) of those surveyed expressed confidence that the business world rarely or never fails to resolve important issues. Politicians did significantly better in this regard with a record level of 63% (+4pp). In 2005, only 38% of respondents made such a statement.

The positive assessment of the situation is also demonstrated when surveying confidence in Switzerland's key institutions and decision-makers: The top spots are occupied – as almost always – by the Federal Supreme Court and the police, but there was increased confidence in all the institutions and decision-makers over 2012, with the average gain amounting to 12 percentage points. The increase was especially pronounced regarding the media.

National Pride Remains High
As in past years, pride in Switzerland continues to be very pronounced: An unchanged 86% of respondents are somewhat or very proud of Switzerland. And no less than 91% (+8pp) are convinced that Switzerland's reputation abroad is quite good or very good. In conjunction with the awareness of Switzerland's strong economy, 63% (+1pp) of those surveyed rated Swiss politicians as acting defensively in their dealings with other countries: A clear majority would like to see them take a more aggressive stance in future negotiations.

Education as the Foundation of Prosperity
Neutrality (47%, +6pp), education (46%, +5pp), stability (35%, +10pp), peace (34%, +4pp), and the right to express an opinion (33%, -5pp) were given as the country's top strengths. This fits with the statistic that nearly all Swiss people think that promoting education is a key political objective (96%, +2pp). Others include securing retirement provisions (94%, -1pp), fighting youth
unemployment (92%, -1pp), and financing health care (90%, +12pp).

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 37 years, Credit Suisse has conducted an annual Worry and Identity Barometer survey to examine these issues. Between July 30 and August 25, 2013, the research institute gfs.bern asked 1000 voters throughout Switzerland about their concerns and other issues on behalf of Credit Suisse. Respondents could select their five most important concerns from a list of 34.