Switzerland Travel Information

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Switzerland > Map Economy History

Swiss Alps Jungfrau-Aletsch
Monte San Giorgio
Swiss Tectonic Arena Sardona

Facts About Switzerland

Background: Switzerland's independence and neutrality have long been honored by the major European powers and Switzerland was not involved in either of the two World Wars. The political and economic integration of Europe over the past half century, as well as Switzerland's role in many UN and international organizations, may be rendering obsolete the country's concern for neutrality.
Government type: federal republic
Capital: Bern
Currency: 1 Swiss franc (CHF) = 100 centimes, rappen, or centesimi

Geography of Switzerland

Location: Central Europe, east of France, north of Italy
Geographic coordinates: 47 00 N, 8 00 E
total: 41,290 sq km
land: 39,770 sq km
water: 1,520 sq km
Land boundaries:
total: 1,852 km
border countries: Austria 164 km, France 573 km, Italy 740 km, Liechtenstein 41 km, Germany 334 km
Coastline: 0 km (landlocked)
Maritime claims: none (landlocked)
Climate: temperate, but varies with altitude; cold, cloudy, rainy/snowy winters; cool to warm, cloudy, humid summers with occasional showers
Terrain: mostly mountains (Alps in south, Jura in northwest) with a central plateau of rolling hills, plains, and large lakes
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Lake Maggiore 195 m
highest point: Dufourspitze 4,634 m
Natural resources: hydropower potential, timber, salt
Land use:
arable land: 10%
permanent crops: 2%
permanent pastures: 28%
forests and woodland: 32%
other: 28% (1993 est.)
Irrigated land: 250 sq km (1993 est.)
Natural hazards: avalanches, landslides, flash floods
Environment - current issues: air pollution from vehicle emissions and open-air burning; acid rain; water pollution from increased use of agricultural fertilizers; loss of biodiversity
Environment - international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulphur 85, Air Pollution-Sulphur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Marine Dumping, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea
Geography - note: landlocked; crossroads of northern and southern Europe; along with southeastern France and northern Italy, contains the highest elevations in Europe.

People of Switzerland

Switzerland sits at the crossroads of several major European cultures, which have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. Switzerland has four official languages--German, French, Italian, and Romansch (based on Latin and spoken by a small minority in the Canton Graubuenden). The German spoken here is predominantly a Swiss dialect, but newspapers and some broadcasts use High German. Many Swiss speak more than one language. English is widely known, especially among professionals.

More than 75% of the population lives in the central plain, which stretches between the Alps and the Jura Mountains and from Geneva in the southwest to the Rhine River and Lake Constance in the northeast. Resident foreigners and temporary foreign workers make up about 20% of the population.

Almost all Swiss are literate. Switzerland's 12 institutes of higher learning enrolled 95,700 students in the academic year of 1999-2000. The constitution guarantees freedom of worship. Switzerland consistently ranks high on quality of life indices, including highest per capita income, one of the highest concentration of computer and Internet usage per capita, highest insurance coverage per individual, high literacy and health care rates.

Population: 7,489,370 (July 2005 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 17% (male 637,782; female 605,626)
15-64 years: 68% (male 2,498,540; female 2,421,802)
65 years and over: 15% (male 444,627; female 653,995) 
Population growth rate: 0.3% 
Birth rate: 10.4 births/1,000 population 
Death rate: 8.75 deaths/1,000 population 
Net migration rate: 1.38 migrant(s)/1,000 population 
Infant mortality rate: 4.53 deaths/1,000 live births 
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.6 years
male: 76.73 years
female: 82.63 years 
Total fertility rate: 1.47 children born/woman 
noun: Swiss (singular and plural)
adjective: Swiss
Ethnic groups: German 65%, French 18%, Italian 10%, Romansch 1%, other 6%
Religions: Roman Catholic 46.1%, Protestant 40%, other 5%, none 8.9% (1990)
Languages: German (official) 63.7%, French (official) 19.2%, Italian (official) 7.6%, Romansch 0.6%, other 8.9%
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99% (1980 est.)

SOURCES: The World Factbook, U.S. Department of State

Mother Earth Travel > Country Index > Switzerland > Map Economy History