Switzerland - Economy

Because of the paucity of its minerals and other raw materials and its limited agricultural production, Switzerland depends upon imports of food and fodder and of industrial raw materials, which it finances with exports of manufactured goods. Agriculture is important, though limited by a scarcity of level and fertile land, but manufacturing engages more than five times as many workers as farming. Swiss manufacturers excel in quality of workmanship rather than quantity of output. Other important branches of the economy include international banking, insurance, tourism, and transportation. Switzerland was less affected than most other nations by the worldwide recession of the early 1980s and experienced a strong recovery beginning in 1983. However, between 1986 and 1992, GNP grew by an annual average of only 0.7% and it fell in 1991, 1992, and 1993. From 1993–95, growth averaged barely 1% a year and decreased once again in 1996. In 1998, however, it grew by 2% and by 1.9% in 1999, before soaring, relatively speaking, 3.4% in 2000. The global international slowdown in 2001 and the appreciation of the Swiss franc brought small contractions in 2001 (-0.9%) and 2002 (-0.2%). From 1990 to 1992, the annual inflation rate averaged 5.1%. By 1994 inflation had plummeted to 0.9%; it was 1.8% in 1995, 0.8% in 1996, and 0% in 1998. From 1999 to 2002, average annual inflation was about 1%. Swiss unemployment has remained consistently low in comparison with other countries, although it reached an unusually high 4.5% in 1993. In 1994 unemployment was 3.8%, and 3.6% in 1998— rates a fraction of France and Germany. Unemployment fell further, to an average annual rate of 2.3%, 1999 to 2002. Meanwhile, the Swiss GDP per capita—in 2001, $35,399 in nominal terms and $31,100 in purchasing power parity terms (CIA est.)—continued to be among the highest in the world.

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