Switzerland - Land of the Alps,
The beautiful country of Switzerland is situated in Northern Europe and is geographically divided between the Alps, the Central Plateau and the Jura mountains. Switzerland sits at the crossroads of northern and southern Europe. Several major European cultures have heavily influenced the country's languages and cultural practices. To be precise, Switzerland showcases three of Europe's most distinct cultures - to the northeast is the German-speaking Switzerland; to the south-west the French-speaking Switzerland and in the south-east the Italian-speaking Switzerland.
Along with southeastern France, northern Italy, and southwestern Austria, Switzerland has the highest elevations in the Alps. About two third of the area of Switzerland is covered with forests, lakes and mountains. While the Alps occupy the greater part of the Swiss territory, the Swiss population of approximately 7.9 million people mainly lives in the Plateau, where the largest cities are to be found. Among them are the two global cities and economic centres of the world, Zurich and Geneva. Switzerland has four official languages--German, French, Italian, and Romansch.
Switzerland is formally a confederation but similar in structure to a federal republic composed of 26 cantons that retain attributes of sovereignty, such as fiscal autonomy and the right to manage internal cantonal affairs. The Swiss Confederation has a long history of neutrality and the country has not been in a state of war internationally since 1815. For centuries, other European countries have respected this neutrality, even during World Wars I & II.
Despite a dearth of natural resources, Switzerland is one of the world's most advanced and prosperous nations in the world. It has a modern market economy, one of the most capitalist and powerful economies of the world. The economy is characterized by low unemployment, a highly qualified labour force performing highly skilled work, and a per capita GDP among the highest in the world. Switzerland's economy benefits from a highly developed service sector which now employs the greatest number of people. The service sector is led by financial services - the country is known for its high standard of banking and insurance services, and a manufacturing industry that specializes in high-technology, knowledge-based production.
Chemicals, health and pharmaceutical, measuring instruments, musical instruments, real estate, tourism, and international organisations are some of the important industries in Switzerland. Switzerland is home to several large multinational corporations. Most of the people working in Switzerland are employed by small and medium-sized enterprises, which play an extremely important role in the Swiss economy.
The per capita income in Switzerland is among the highest in the world, as are wages. Trade has been the key to prosperity in Switzerland. The country is dependent upon export markets to generate income while dependent upon imports for raw materials and to expand the range of goods and services available in the country. Switzerland has liberal investment and trade policies, with the exception of agriculture, and a conservative fiscal policy. More recently, the Swiss have brought their economic practices largely into conformity with the EU's, in order to enhance their international competitiveness.
The Swiss currency is called "Schweizerfranken" ("Swiss Franc"). The Swiss franc is one of the world's soundest currencies. Switzerland remains a safe haven for investors because it has maintained a degree of bank secrecy and has kept up the franc's long-term external value.
Switzerland is a member of a number of international economic organizations, including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). On the European level, it is a founding member of the European Free Trade Association and is part of the Schengen Area – although it is notably not a member of the European Union, nor the European Economic Area. It did not join the United Nations until 2002.
Switzerland is an easy place to do business. The country has an overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by the Western World standards. Switzerland ranks 21st out of 178 countries in the Ease of Doing Business Index. Business activity benefits from a well-developed institutional framework, characterized by the rule of law, an efficient judicial system, and high levels of transparency and accountability within public institutions. Apart from agriculture, economic and trade barriers between the European Union and Switzerland are minimal and Switzerland has free trade agreements worldwide.
Switzerland is a peaceful and prosperous nation with a stable government and diverse society. The country offers a great quality of life to its residents. It is considered as one of the best places in the world to live and work. Zurich and Geneva have respectively been ranked as the cities with the second and third highest quality of life in the world.