Fast Facts

Bern; 320,000
41,284 square kilometers (15,940 square miles)
German, French, Italian, Romansh
Roman Catholic, Protestant
Swiss franc
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $32,000
Literacy Percent:
Flag: Switzerland
Map: Switzerland

A history of political stability and expertise in technology and commerce help explain the Swiss phenomenon: a post-industrial economy that reported one of the highest per capita incomes in the world.

Founded in 1291 as a union of three cantons chafing against Habsburg rule, Switzerland has been independent since 1815; its borders now encompass 26 cantons embracing three major languages—German, French, and Italian. Foreigners make up 25 percent of the workforce. Switzerland competes in global markets with exports that make up almost half of the nation's economy; however the Swiss in a 2001 referendum voted against joining the European Union.

Elaborate civil defense measures and a strong militia back up the Swiss policy of permanent neutrality. Switzerland is firmly committed to world peace, and in 2002 became a member of the United Nations.


  • Industry: Machinery, chemicals, watches, textiles, precision instruments
  • Agriculture: Grains, fruits and vegetables; meat
  • Exports: Machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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