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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

Switzerland ranked ‘best country’ in the world

Switzerland has been placed in top spot in yet another international ranking. But does it deserve such a high score?

Switzerland ranked 'best country' in the world
Definitely not a bad place to live. Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

In its annual ranking of 85 nations, US News & World Report has placed Switzerland in top position, based on 73 different criteria.

While it did not come up tops in all of the categories, Switzerland did sufficiently well in others to get an overall high score, as well as high scores in several individual categories.

There are some of them:

Open for Business (100 points out of 100)

This title may be somewhat misleading, as it could be taken to mean that shops and other businesses are open until late hours.

If this were the case, Switzerland wouldn’t get the maximum score; in fact, it would probably place toward the bottom of the ranking.

Instead, this category means ‘business friendly’— and that Switzerland certainly is.

As the report puts it, “The countries considered the most business-friendly are those that are perceived to best balance stability and expense. These market-oriented countries are a haven for capitalists and corporations”.

In other words, the government has created a good environment for businesses to thrive, by offering, for instance, tax incentives and a skilled labour force.

This is actually a good thing because when businesses do well, so does the entire economy.

The proof that Switzerland excels in this category is that it has “low unemployment, and one of the highest gross domestic products per capita in the world”, the report states.

“This helps explain why the country placed first on the list of nations perceived as a good place to headquarter a corporation, as well as scoring in the top five among best countries for a comfortable retirement, green living and to start a career”.

READ MORE: Switzerland ‘an island of bliss’ compared to US, chief economist says

Quality of Life (96.7)

This term could mean different things to different people. But as defined in the report, “beyond the essential ideas of broad access to food, housing, quality education, health care and employment, quality of life may also include intangibles such as job security, political stability, individual freedom and environmental quality”.

Switzerland certainly offers all four. Unemployment is low, which means there are plenty of job opportunities.

The country is politically stable from within, with well established democratic processes — such as referendums — providing security against abuses of power.

Freedom, including the right to ‘self-determination’, is a constitutional right.

And while ecological concerns related to global warming do exist, the Swiss are good at protecting the nature that surrounds them.

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Other quality-of-life categories that weight in Switzerland’s favour include safety, well-developed public education, and a top-notch public health system.

Switzerland has done well across all these categories, but this is no news to anyone who has been following such rankings: the country, or its individual cities, regularly figure among those boasting a high quality of life.

READ MORE: REVEALED: Which Swiss cities offer the best quality of life?

Social purpose (86.6)

This means the country cares about human and animal rights, the environment, gender equality, religious freedom, property rights, well-distributed political power, racial equity, climate goals, and social justice.

Switzerland does particularly well in some of these categories, and less so in others.

In terms of animal rights, for instance, the country’s legislation is among the toughest in the world: as an example, small domestic animals must be kept in pairs to ensure social interaction, and it is illegal to boil a live lobster.

Another category in which Switzerland succeeds possibly better than other nations is the distribution of political power — under Switzerland’s unique system of direct democracy, people, rather than politicians, hold and wield all the power.

READ MORE: How Switzerland’s direct democracy system works

You will find the overall rankings in this link.
 

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LIVING IN SWITZERLAND

How employees in Switzerland can take more holidays in 2023

If you work in Switzerland, you are entitled to take four weeks for holidays, either at once or in smaller time periods. There, is, however, a way, to extend your time off — if you plan ahead.

How employees in Switzerland can take more holidays in 2023

Four weeks (20 days) is the strict legal minimum for people working 41 hours per week, which counts as a full-time position.

However, many companies offer their employees more than the legal minimum; the exact number of days or weeks is outlined in an employment contract.

For part-time work, the four-week period is pro-rated according to the number of hours an employee works each week.

However, there is an astute way of extending your vacation time without taking off too many additional work days. This is how.

The “bridges”

As Christmas Day (December 25th) and New Year Day (January 1st) are public holidays, some businesses close down during the entire period between the two holidays, giving their employees the days between the two dates as holiday time (in addition to the statutory four weeks).

This year, however, both Christmas and New Year fall on a Sunday, so you don’t really gain anything. However, if they fall on, say, Friday or Monday, then in the very least you get a nice long weekend.

There is a movement among Swiss labour unions to provide a compensation day if a public holiday falls on the weekend, as it does this year, but so far there has not been any response from the employers’ associations.

READ MORE: Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Another longish “time off” period is around Easter: Good Friday (April 7th in 2023)  is a public holiday nearly everywhere in Switzerland, except in Ticino and Valais, as is Easter Monday (April 10th), with the exception of Neuchâtel, Solothurn, Valais and Zug.

So if you live anywhere in the country except those cantons, you can take the Thursday before and Tuesday after Easter as two “holiday” days and enjoy an almost week-long vacation which will “cost” you only two days from your 20-day yearly allowance.

You can do the same with other public holidays — for instance, next Ascension Day in on Thursday, May 18th, but many companies don’t work on Friday, making it a four-day weekend.

Again, if you take at least another day off either before or after — that is, Wednesday May 17th or Monday May 19th, you will have a five-day holiday for the price of one day from your yearly allowance.

So far, with the above combinations, you have lost three days out of 20, but have gained six and five days of holidays, respectively.

You can also do the same around other public holidays as well, either national ones or those specific to your cantons.

Why do the Swiss have so little time off anyway?

Many other European countries give their workers longer vacations — in France and Austria, for instance, employees are entitled to five weeks.

But the Swiss themselves are to blame for their briefer leave: in a 2012 referendum, 67 percent of the country’s voters rejected (yes, rejected) the proposal to extend the mandatory leave to six weeks.

They did so because they believed longer holidays would cost the economy billions of francs each year, and the money-conscious Swiss just couldn’t allow that.

As the media reported at the time, the outcome showed that Swiss voters had realised “something which sounds nice at first, on closer look brings many disadvantages” and that “citizens have kept a sense of reality.”

READ MORE : Everything you need to know about annual leave in Switzerland

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