Bravely into the future. Opportunities for Swiss SMEs
How much progress does Switzerland need? Where does it need more, where less? The Credit Suisse Progress Barometer indicates that entrepreneurs embrace progress more than the general public does. This aspect is related to their willingness to take on risk. Risk tolerance is a quality that makes possible innovation – and improvement along with it.
Switzerland comes out on top in a comparison of countries based on real economic indicators. But Swiss people have an entirely different perception. The majority underestimates the country's progress, and opinions differ widely about how much progress is actually desirable. Age, gender and political beliefs, as well as profession all play a role in determining just who calls for more progress. Entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized enterprises advocate more progress in more issues. This is one finding of the Progress Barometer 2018, conducted by research institute gfs.bern on behalf of Credit Suisse.
Priority for location issues
gfs.bern surveyed 3,133 people including 68 entrepreneurs. The survey covered 30 issues concerning trends in the economy, society and politics. Respondents were satisfied with the rate of progress for around half of the topics or even expressed their desire for more rapid progress. There is particularly strong support for moving Switzerland's traffic underground. When it comes to this topic, the representatives of SMEs expressed the greatest approval. They find that no other area requires action quite as urgently. Yet they are not alone with these concerns. The general public also ranked the expansion of underground traffic higher than any other topic, though they would be satisfied with slower progress than the representatives of the SMEs.
The entrepreneurs ranked various issues related to the economy directly below underground traffic; among those, location issues were first and foremost. This sets them apart from the general public who mainly supports social compatibility aspects. Entrepreneurs call on the country to invest more tax money into research. They consider it almost as important for Switzerland to retain its low corporate tax rate so that more international companies are encouraged to move their registered offices here.
Entrepreneurs, too, appear to be progressive when it comes to achieving greater efficiency in the workplace by means of digitalization. They also champion the use of robots as well as free and global trade. When it comes to social and political topics, they show less interest in progress – with one exception: They consider the expansion of publicly and privately funded childcare services to be extremely important.
The weighting varies
There are also some calls to slow the pace. In responses to around one-third of the topics, respondents as a whole tended to be more critical of progress. Entrepreneurs expressed more positive views on the situation. They expressed a desire to slow the pace of progress in only four topics under society and politics. The fact they find most troubling is that the day-to-day lives of the Swiss public is subject to ever growing legal regulations. Less and less diversity in the Swiss media and growing polarization in the political arena are two trends that they think should be stopped. In addition, they would like to see the divide between city and country grow no wider than it already is. Representatives of the SMEs are not sure when it comes to reducing the cultural lands or the immigration of foreign skilled workers. They tend to see greater progress in these areas as beneficial and yet are uncertain as to how useful it is. The same holds true for the fact that, more and more, Switzerland is becoming a knowledge-based society and investing less in agriculture but more in colleges and universities.
When it comes to progress, women focus primarily on different topics than men do. When it comes to social topics, they would like to see greater progress. Both genders support change in political and economic topics, yet men would like to see it happen more quickly than women. Differences are also apparent when it comes to social classes. People who consider themselves belonging to the lower segment support less progress in economy and politics than people who attest to a higher social status. Social progress enjoys nearly equal support from the social classes. In this regard, the different age groups are also in agreement. Both young and old consider advancing society as a whole to be a priority.
The direction is clear
Regardless of gender, the Swiss are in agreement. Advances in society are necessary before progress can be achieved in politics and the economy. They want to adhere to the parameters of the Switzerland's success model. These include civic engagement, a consensus-oriented political system, preservation of the landscape and Switzerland as a location for creating value, independent media, a relatively narrow city-country divide and not too much regulation and immigration. The details on where progress is needed remain a matter of discussion. Yet that progress must always serve to advance society as a whole and also include those who are socially most vulnerable. As long as these things are taken into consideration, the Swiss accept progress. Opinion leaders and entrepreneurs are less anxious when it comes to progress. They are more open to change and innovation. That calls for a certain degree of risk tolerance, which is a typical attribute for an entrepreneurial mindset, along with perseverance, passion and inquisitiveness.