Worry Barometer 2016: Switzerland Is Confident
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Worry Barometer 2016: Switzerland Is Confident

The main concerns seem less threatening, confidence in institutions has increased and the economic situation is considered positive. The Credit Suisse Worry Barometer shows that optimism is growing in Switzerland.

Unemployment, foreigners, retirement provision – the top three concerns of the Swiss have stayed the same in recent years. And yet, the trend has changed somewhat. Those three concerns seem to have lost some of their threatening character. In 2003, 63 percent of those surveyed saw unemployment as a major problem. Last year it was 56 percent, and now the number is at just 45 percent. The same trend applies to retirement provision. That issue worried 59 percent of the population in 2003. Last year it declined to 38 percent, and it has dropped to 28 percent today.

The Top Worries of the Swiss 2016

By contrast, concerns about foreigners have risen almost continuously since 2003 from 18 percent to 43 percent last year. Now results are showing a significant decline by 7 percentage points (pp). At the same time, the number of respondents citing refugees and asylum-seekers as a top concern has declined by 9pp to 26 percent. This development was not necessarily expected. On the one hand, this can be interpreted as praise for the political system and the institutions involved; on the other hand, the number of asylum applications is expected to decline compared to 2015 – however, not in comparison to previous years.

Unemployment, foreigners, pensions – the top worries remain the same. 

The decline of these top concerns makes room for other worries, but no single problem has leapt up the scale. We would most likely have expected this effect with terrorism concerns due to the numerous attacks in neighboring countries. But at 14 percent (+4pp), this number is far below the level in 2001 (27 percent). Transportation-related problems have increased somewhat more significantly (15 percent, +7pp). Perhaps the festive opening of the Gotthard Base Tunnel called greater public attention to other transportation issues. Wages have gained in significance somewhat (14 percent, +4pp), while the very slight increase in concerns surrounding new poverty (16 percent, +1pp) may have to do with the overall positive impression of the economic situation. Concerns about coexistence in Switzerland have also increased (11 percent, +4pp).

Promoting Education and Solidarity

How should politicians react to the broad range of worries? What should they focus on? The familiar main concerns also rise to the top when it comes to naming the most urgent problem that should be resolved first. Old age and survivors' insurance (AHV), immigration issues and unemployment were cited as the number one problem by 8 percent of voters, while 6 percent chose asylum and refugee problems as well as youth unemployment as the top issue.

Education is particularly important.

However, if you ask people how they rate certain current political objectives, other topics also take on great importance. This applies in particular to promoting education (93 percent call this very or somewhat important) as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions (86 percent say this is very or somewhat important).

The Government and Economy Rarely Fail

People in Switzerland have great confidence in their institutions. The country's strong political and economic stability may be the reason. Other arguments include minimal corruption, a functioning administration and comparisons with other countries where things do not run as well.

Switzerland and the EU – Shaping the Future Relationship

A clear majority of voters (60 percent) attest that both the government and economy rarely fail in key areas. These two numbers have never been so high. In 2003, almost the same number of people believed that the government (53 percent) and the economy (57 percent) failed often. Institutions that the Swiss previously viewed with skepticism primarily benefited from the increased confidence, such as political parties (55 percent, +9pp), which a mere 29 percent of the population on average expressed confidence in over the last 20 years. This has led to a general coalescing at a very high level. Within one year, the difference between the first and last place in the confidence ranking declined from 30 to 12 percentage points.

The top group of institutions trusted by 60 percent of the Swiss population includes the Federal Supreme Court and police as well as the Federal Council and Council of States, as has been the case for years. The Swiss National Bank (SNB) and non-governmental organizations (NGO) have joined those ranks, although two years ago the latter of those only earned the confidence of 47 percent of people surveyed. Employee and employer organizations are also enjoying significant confidence growth (61 percent, +14pp and 53 percent, +15pp respectively). How they were assessed varied widely in recent years, and now the trend is moving upward again. The European Union joins the winners as well (54 percent, +12pp).

Have People Digested the Franc Shock?

Swiss people have never before assessed their own economic situation as positively as this year. More than two thirds of the population rate it as good or even very good, and optimism for the future is running high, while 92 percent (+6pp) assume that they will be equally well off next year or in even better circumstances.

Economic optimism has never been so high.

The general economic situation receives a similar evaluation. The Swiss franc shock appears to be in the past, as 81 percent (+10pp) of those surveyed believe that the economy has stayed the same or improved over the last twelve months, while 63 percent (+11pp) assume that the economic situation in the coming year will remain more or less constant, and 22 percent (+2pp) expect an economic improvement. The majority of Swiss people have a positive view of the future.