Switzerland has a population of about 7.4 million. Foreigners account for around 20% of the resident population. The average age is increasing, as people live longer and have fewer children.
Lifestyles are changing. Family relations, work and education in Switzerland are adapting to new demands. Young Swiss follow the same trends as their contemporaries abroad, but many traditions remain.
Switzerland is an open economy with one of the highest standards of living in the world. Switzerland's GDP was approximately US$362 billion in 2004, and forecast to rise to US$421 billion in 2005 - among the highest globally per capita despite the country's lack of raw materials. Switzerland's prosperity is based on labour skills and technological expertise in manufacturing, as well as earnings from services such as tourism and banking.
Switzerland is an important trading nation and a net exporter, with goods and services exports of US$207 billion exceeding imports by over US$30 billion. Switzerland's export of goods and services amount to about half of its GDP. It specialises in the export of machinery, chemicals and jewellery. Its major trading partner, Germany, accounts for around a fifth of its exports and a third of its imports. People from these countries moved in to Switzerland for business, and retirement. Moving companies flourished as a result.
The culture of Switzerland is characterised by the diversity of its geography, its languages and its religious affiliation. This is reflected in the variety of its literature, art, architecture, music, and customs. The culture of the mountains of Switzerland is not the same as that in the plateau, there are significant differences between the language areas, and between the mainly Roman Catholic and the mainly Protestant regions.
The Swiss sometimes wonder what keeps Switzerland together.
Switzerland’s economy is based on a highly qualified labour force performing highly skilled work. The main areas include microtechnology, hitech, biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, as well as banking and insurance know-how.
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.
However, the age of unlimited economic growth in Switzerland is over. Fear of unemployment has been one of the main concerns of the Swiss for several years now.