Switzerland – Some Statistical Facts

It  is not all scenery and hotels. The little nation has a prosperous life apart from the tourists who make of its mountains a playground. There is interesting matter to be gleaned from the facts given in the publications of the Swiss Federal Statistical Bureau.

The residential population of Switzerland is 3,753,293, and the area 4,129,827 square kilo-metres, of which 3,203,089 are counted as productive, and 926,738 as unproductive. Thus three – quarters of the land is capable of being put to some use. There are over 120 lakes within the Swiss area.

The population of Switzerland lately has grown steadily. The marriage-rate (7.3) is low ; the birth-rate (25.0) fairly high ; the death-rate (15’1) a little above the average. All three rates show a tendency to dwindle, following the rule of the western European countries. The death-rate from infectious diseases is high, representing one-fifth of the total. Emigration to foreign lands is not large now, Switzerland losing about 5000 people a year from this cause, the great majority of whom go to the United States and the Argentine.

The chief agricultural and pastoral products of Switzerland are milk, cheese, cream, cereals, vines, fruits, and tobacco. The vintage is worth £600,000 a year. The forests are made to pay well, and are very carefully safeguarded. On an average about £500,000 a year is devoted to re-planting and to protecting woods. The woods are divided into two classes, protective and non-protective. The former are treated as safe-guards against avalanches, and are exploited only with a due consideration for their primary purpose as bulwarks. Altogether 21 per cent of Switzerland is forest land, and three-quarters of this area is treated as ” protective forest.” The Governments of the United States and of Canada, which are disturbed regarding the de-forestation of their areas and the consequent deterioration of soil and climate, should make a careful study of the admirable Swiss system of forestry.

The Swiss lake and river fisheries are very carefully preserved and cultivated. There are in all 188 fish nurseries maintained within the country, and during a year over 100,000,000 fish of various sorts (trout chiefly) are hatched out and released in the rivers and lakes. Incident-ally a steady war is carried on against crows, herons, and other birds destructive to fish. In this, as in every other respect when the life of the Swiss people is examined, there will be found a steady, thrifty, scientific effort to make the most of every available resource of the country. There is probably less waste and more utilisation of natural opportunities in Switzerland than in any other country of the world.

Swiss industries are in some cases Government monopolies, and help the national revenue considerably. The salt monopoly brings in about £1,500,000 a year, of which a great part is profit. The total trade of Switzerland reaches £120,000,000 value a year, of which the exports represent about £50,000,000 and the imports about £70,000,000. That is exclusive of coin, on which there is a balance in favour of Switzer-land of about £600,000 annually. The tourist traffic is mainly responsible for the balance of imports in favour of Switzerland, for there is practically no foreign borrowing. The Swiss have a flourishing export trade in various manufactures, such as watches (export worth nearly £6,000,000 a year). In all 75 per cent of the Swiss export trade is in manufactured goods. Of the imports into Switzerland 40 per cent are of raw materials, 26 per cent of food supplies, and the balance of manufactured goods. Germany claims the largest share of the import trade into Switzerland, with France, Italy, and Great Britain next in that order. Of the export trade also Germany takes the largest share, but that of Great Britain is very nearly equal. The United States comes third in the list of customers for Swiss exports.

The public services in Switzerland are excellent, and show a high power of organisation. The postal, telegraph, and telephone system has been, in particular, wonderfully organised in Switzerland, as the visitor soon finds and the inhabitant fully realises. You may use the post office for almost anything and telephone almost anywhere in Switzerland. Some £2,500,000 has been sunk in the telegraph and telephone lines in Switzerland, and the annual revenue is about £700,000. The articles carried by post in Switzerland total in a year about 360,000,000. The number of telegrams sent per inhabitant in Switzerland is greater than in any other European country except Great Britain. The Swiss railways are very well developed, too well developed for some lovers of the Alps. Each year there are constructed new funicular railways and tramways, until soon it will be hard to find a ten-miles’ square in all Switzerland which has not a railway of some sort. Counting in all the mountain railways, the total length of Swiss lines runs to the astonishing total of over 5,250,000 metres, and additions go on at the rate of over 250,000 metres a year. These railways bring in about £9,000,000 a year, on which a good profit is realised—about £3,000,000 a year—representing 3.32 per cent on the capital invested. The Federal Government controls the chief lines and manages them very well, making a good profit out of providing reasonably cheap facilities to the public. Tourists are able to buy circular tickets, which frank over all the Swiss lines under the control of the Federal Government. The funicular railways up the mountain sides are usually privately owned. Over £1,000,000 of capital has been sunk in these enterprises, and they pay well on the average by the strength of their appeal to the arm-chair Alpinist.

Education, as already observed, has been brought to a high pitch of organisation in Switzerland. From the primary schools to the seven Universities there are splendid facilities for learning. In the 4690 primary schools there are about 530,000 pupils yearly under 12,023 teachers. The cost of this primary education is a little over £2,000,000 a year. In the 642 secondary (higher) schools there are about 55,000 pupils yearly under 2000 teachers, and the cost of these schools is about £300,000 a year. There are, in addition, schools of agriculture, of dairying, of commerce, and other technical schools. In the various agricultural colleges about 1250 pupils are trained each year, in the schools of commerce about 4000 pupils. In addition, continuation commercial schools give further instruction to some 10,000 pupils yearly, who attend holiday and evening classes. But that does not exhaust the list of educational facilities. In all, Switzerland spends £3,200,000 a year on State education, nearly £1 a year per inhabitant. Since – salaries are on an extraordinarily thrifty scale in all branches of the Swiss public service—the President of the Republic getting a salary which would be scorned by the manager of a small business house in London or New York—this appropriation allows for a very large number of teachers. In the seven universities of Switzer-land (Bale, Zurich, Berne, Geneva, Lausanne, Fribourg, and Neuchatel) there is an average of 8500 students a year, of whom fully a third are foreigners.

Correctional schools and schools for the feeble-minded are integral parts of the Swiss social system. An average of 1500 children a year are treated in the correctional schools, and of 1300 a year in the schools for the feeble-minded (of which there are 28 in all). There are 14 special schools for deaf mutes, treating an average of 700 pupils a year.

Switzerland gathers in for Federal purposes a public revenue of nearly £6,500,000 a year, about half from the Customs, almost all the rest from the posts, telegraphs, and railways.

Outgoings are on a thrifty scale. The whole of the ” general administration ” absorbs only £55,000 a year. The excellent army costs barely £1,700,000 a year. The Federal receipts and expenses are, of course, apart from the Canton revenues. The Cantons separately raise and spend about £5,500,000 a year. That makes the total taxation in Switzerland some £12,000,000 a year.

The production and sale of alcohol is a Federal monopoly in Switzerland. The Regie makes about £400,000 a year profit, the bulk of which is returned to the Canton governments.

Some further indications of Swiss social life will be given by these facts : there are in Switzer-land 385 savings banks with 446,247 depositors and £63,000,000 in deposits. The gaol population is about 4170, of whom about one-fourth are serious criminals. Capital punishment is not allowed in Switzerland, nor is imprisonment for debt.

The Swiss army stands to-day at an effective strength of 142,000 for the elite and 7000 for the Landwehr. The efficiency of the Landwehr (reserve) is helped much by the general popularity of rifle shooting as a sport. The Federation has 3958 rifle clubs with 232,225 members. The Government encourages these clubs with subsidies, and spends about £25,000 a year in that way. Since there are 839,114 male voters in Switzerland, it will seem that more than a fourth of the total male population belongs to rifle clubs.

The Swiss are keen politicians and go industriously to the polls for the election of representatives, and for the settlement of the numerous questions referred to their decision by direct vote. In 1912 there was a Swiss referendum on the subject of the new Insurance law against sickness and accidents. Of the 839,114 electors 529,001 recorded their votes.

Switzerland each year attracts more and more the attention of sociologists. Its completely popular system of government, which has solved the problem of carrying on a democracy without extravagance and without bureaucratic inefficiency, its close and effective organisation of military, education, and charity matters, its methods of referring political issues for settlement directly to the people—all are being carefully studied in various countries of the world with a view to imitation. It yet remains to be seen whether methods and policies which work notably well in their native land would bear transplanting ; whether, too, they would be as suitable for larger areas and larger populations than Switzer-land has. In some respects the Swiss example will doubtless prove useful for imitation (with modifications) in other countries.

But it is fair to question whether the happiness to which the little Swiss people have reached is the ideal with which civilised democracy would be content. The Swiss are happy, but it is a strictly mediocre happiness. They are content because they have a very modest standard of contentment. The people of the country, with all their virtues, are not inspiring ; and the life they lead suggests a little too much the life of an excellently-managed institution to be really attractive. At the outset of this volume I ventured to question the justice of some eminent travellers who have abused the Swiss. They, it would seem to me, had formed an extraordinarily heroic idea of the Swiss character, and were disappointed that close examination showed a people who are very estimable, very well-educated, very firm in their patriotism, but not always suggestive of the heroic. Between an unfair depreciation and the idealising of the Swiss nation there is a reasonable middle ground, and from that middle ground the social and political inquirer should approach the study of Swiss sociological institutions.