Human Rights in SwitzerlandHuman rights have always been a hot topic for the global community. Hence, when countries seem to get it right, we all can’t help but go to the old search bar to find out for ourselves whether human rights in Switzerland is that good.

Multiple internationally-acknowledged measures create a positive image of human rights in Switzerland. In 2016, Switzerland ranked third in the human development index, a composite index set up by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to measure human development according to life expectancy, access to education and gross national income.

They were ranked first in the gender inequality index (GII), another UNDP project, which looks at development from the view of gender inequality. It measures gender inequality by reproductive health(maternal mortality and adolescent birth rate); gender empowerment; the number of seats women hold in Parliament; female secondary education and female labor force participation.

Additionally, and perhaps most importantly on the topic of human rights, Switzerland ranked second on the human freedom index. This index tries to be as comprehensive as possible, taking into account 79 clear indicators of personal and economic freedom in multiple areas such as the rule of law, religion, movement and expression.

The above information highlights the importance that the Swiss government and people place on human rights in Switzerland. A quote from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation(SDC) says, “sustainable development is only possible if fundamental human rights principles such as non-discrimination, participation, and the rule of law are respected. These rights form the basis of international cooperation. This fact is why the promotion of human rights is a critical issue for the SDC.”

Indeed, human rights in Switzerland exceeds the norm in several areas, but that does not mean it is perfect. For instance, in reaction to the influx of migrants going to Europe, the country provides asylum to a few thousand refugees, resettling them across the country. One town mayor boasted that his town was “safe and idyllic” and that this would continue because “no refugees were there.” The mayor went so far as to pay a $300,000 penalty than to accept the federal quota of eight refugees in a town of two thousand.

Furthermore, according to Amnesty International in September, the Lower Chamber of the federal Parliament adopted a bill to ban the use of full-face veils at the national level. At the end of the year, the bill was still pending. It all goes to show that while human rights in Switzerland in comparison to others may seem ideal, like many other things in life, nothing is perfect.

Finally, Switzerland is ranked fifth on the corruption perception index, where over two-thirds of countries out of 176 scored less than halfway on their scale: “no country gets close to a perfect score.”

Obinna Iwuji
Photo: Flickr

Common Diseases in Switzerland
When we think about diseases around the world, we usually imagine viruses like HIV, which kills upwards of one million people worldwide, or malaria, with a death rate of a similar scale. Yet, Switzerland does not necessarily suffer from viruses as much as other countries around the world, even when including swine or bird flu. So, what serious common diseases in Switzerland exist? Well, arguably, none.

If one looks at the common diseases in Switzerland according to government statistics, all diseases are non-transmittable, many of them chronic. In 2012, about 13% of the population have suffered from hypertension (high blood pressure), 7.3% have suffered from Rheumatoid arthritis, and about 3.2% have diabetes.

Every single one of these diseases is chronic, meaning that they kill over a long period of time. Note that the U.S. shows a significantly higher number for hypertension: 32% of the U.S. population suffers from hypertension. So, what common diseases in Switzerland are there that are not chronic or age-related?

The most worrisome diseases in Switzerland turn out to be transmitted through tick bites. Because the Swiss have a wide variety of outdoor activities to choose from, which are spread across the country, the chances of getting a tick bite are relatively high. Approx. 10,000 people are bitten by ticks yearly. These ticks can transmit two particularly dangerous diseases: Lyme disease and tick-borne Encephalitis.

Lyme disease will cause fevers, headaches and severe fatigue in the first month of transmission, for which people sometimes have to quit their jobs or leave school for recovery. What’s worse is that months later, the disease still affects the infected person with more fevers and more fatigue.

Just like Lyme disease, tick-borne Encephalitis also causes fatigue, additionally to muscle pains. Although two-thirds of patients recover with no further issues, one-third goes on to develop Encephalitis, Myelitis or Meningitis. All of these are serious conditions that affect the nervous system.

However, most Swiss are prepared for tick-bites. Every year, the most read newspaper in Switzerland, called 20 Minuten, announces tick season and educates the public on how to avoid tick bites. There exists a vaccine for encephalitis, which people use to protect against one disease, while no vaccine exists for Lyme.

Additionally, only 1.4% of ticks can actually transmit Lyme disease, making the actual transmission rate low. Nevertheless, it infuses an element of fear into the population. A vaccine for Lyme disease is currently going into clinical trials, which, if passed, will eradicate the problem entirely.

Michal Burgunder

Photo: Pixabay

Cost of Living in Switzerland
Known for its delectable chocolate and incredible skiing, the high cost of living in Switzerland is another of the country’s claims to fame. Switzerland ranks above other expensive countries such as Luxembourg and Hong Kong by being the second most expensive country in the world, according to Numbeo. With a gallon of milk costing about $6.50 in Geneva and gas reaching almost $5 a gallon, there is no hiding from high prices.

Geneva, the second-largest city in Switzerland, is 44% more expensive than New York City. The average family of four spends over 5,000 dollars a month on regular expenses. Hailing from the most expensive country in Europe, these expenses have become the norm across the land-locked country.

A dwindling unemployment rate of three percent has helped boost an already booming economy. In addition, the average yearly income is above $35,000, while in the United States it is only around $29,000. These factors contribute to one of the highest qualities of living in the world. A recent poll demonstrates that the Swiss give their quality of life a 7.6 out of 10. The average around the world is a 6.5 out of 10, revealing how high Switzerland ranks in all aspects of life.

If not for the high cost of goods, Swiss bank accounts have long kept Switzerland associated with the wealthy. After passing the Banking Law of 1934, the identities of Swiss bank account holders legally became confidential. This law made it a criminal offense to reveal any information pertaining to Swiss bank account holders. For example, Wegelin bank helped Americans to conceal $1.2 billion from the government in order to evade taxes. The confidentiality that comes along with a Swiss bank account is the driving force behind so many foreigners creating offshore bank accounts in Switzerland. This has contributed to the high cost of living in Switzerland.

With the most expensive Big Mac in the world at $6.59, there is no sector of life untouched from the high cost of living in Switzerland. These exuberant prices come with one of the most scenic countries in the world. Switzerland’s mountains and picturesque towns offer exactly what you pay for. Although the high prices are not going anywhere, the cost of living in Switzerland represents the money it takes to live the ideal life.

Sophie Casimes

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the more well-known countries in Europe that has a population of just over eight million people in 2015. There have been some issues in the past, but over the last 30 years, the water quality in Switzerland has improved big time. The chemical levels have fallen over the years and it has become some of the safest water to drink and interact with in Europe.

The water has been the subject of some very strict rules and standards over the years. There is a lot of water that is available and the water quality does change from region to region within the country. There is bottled water available to the citizens, yet the tap water is considered superior to the bottled water available. Around the world, it is rare for tap water to be considered better than bottled water.

The water quality in Switzerland has risen extensively over the years. With new wastewater treatments, as well as treatments across the board on all water quality, there have been massive reductions in the amount of water that is contaminated across the country. The lakes have been some of the most contaminated waters in the country with a lot of pollution and chemicals within the waters. It has now become very safe to drink from and swim in whereas in the past it was not.

Switzerland has a lot of reserves to fall back on, which differs from a lot of countries around Europe and around the world. Switzerland has about 100 different lakes within the country that provide a lot of reserves of water and the ever-improving water quality of these lakes has helped the overall quality in the country. Just 2% of the annual rainfall makes it back into the process of purifying and getting the water right to make it safe to drink.

The phosphorous levels in all of the major lakes and rivers in Switzerland have dropped off significantly from 1980. The majority of the bodies of water in 1980 were between 100 and 200. Today, they are all below 100. There are other contaminants finding their way into the waters that have officials more worried than what has been problematic over the years.

The water has become safer and safer over the years in Switzerland. They have become a country to look at and see how it has improved its situation with pollution and contaminants and overcame inadequate water.

Brendin Axtman

Photo: Google

Refugees in Switzerland
In Europe, Switzerland ranks fourth in the number of refugees they accept per capita. Given their leniency, the closure of the Balkan countries’ border has led to a rapid increase of refugees in Switzerland. The sudden rise in the refugee population has led to controversy over the Asylum Act and the Foreign Nationals Act.

Top 10 Facts About Refugees in Switzerland

  1. The closure of the popular migration route via the Balkans border on March 9, 2016, led to a rapid increase in the number of refugees in Switzerland as they immigrated to Germany. Refugees have been entering Switzerland through Ticino, and a report estimates there are 5,760 illegal residents in this region.
  2. Switzerland’s Asylum Act grants “recognized refugees” asylum, temporary protection if needed, public social assistance and the ability to become a permanent resident after having resided in the country for 10 years. Refugees in Switzerland granted the B permit are noted as “recognized refugees,” defined as people who “‘in their native country or in their country of the last residence are subject to serious disadvantages or have a well-founded fear of being exposed to such disadvantages.'”
  3. The Asylum Act imposes required social assistance. Consequently, the council of Rekingen, a municipality in the canton of Aargu, Switzerland, proposed that residents should not rent properties to refugees. The proposal stems from the fear that B permit refugees will rely on social welfare benefits and ruin Rekingen financially.
  4. Refugees in Switzerland who apply for asylum must complete processing at a reception center to be considered legal. However, 20 to 40 percent of refugees assigned to reception centers evade the monitoring system  so that they may migrate to Germany. According to Swiss legislation, they are thus illegal immigrants.
  5. Some parts of Switzerland have reported that the number of refugees who left the reception centers soon after arriving is between 50 to 90 percent. They concluded that refugees are using Switzerland for transit instead of asylum.
  6. On February 9, 2014, Switzerland adopted the Controlling Mass Immigration Initiative. The initiative introduced annual quotas for accepting refugees and amended the social security benefits of immigrants seeking employment.
  7. The annual quotas instilled by the Controlling Mass Immigration Initiative has stirred controversy in the village of Oberwil-Lieli. Oberwil-Lieli’s mayor originally rejected the quota because his residents believe assistance should be done “on the ground,” preferring to lessen the threat in the refugees’ native countries rather than make Switzerland a popular asylum. For example, residents of the village raised 370,000 francs to support Greek refugees.
  8. Eritreans make up the largest portion of refugees in Switzerland. About 34,500 Eritreans have fled their homes as a result of violent conflict with Ethiopia. Switzerland has so far accepted refugees who illegally exited Eritrea given they apply for asylum. However, reports show that many refugees use their allowed 21 days of holiday to visit Eritrea34, undermining their claim to asylum. This revelation led to a discussion about Switzerland’s lax rules for refugees. Subsequently, the appeal to strengthen the rules for Eritrean asylum seeking did not receive approval.
  9. Most refugees immigrating from Italy to Germany pass through Switzerland. However, Federal Border Guards consistently transfer migrants who did not apply for asylum to Italy. In 2016, authorities sent over a thousand refugees seeking asylum back to Italy. The deportees included several hundred unaccompanied minors and many refugees with family in Switzerland.
  10. In September 2015, an amendment to the Asylum Act granted asylum seekers free legal advice and representation in the procedure. It also made a legal duty out of caring for the needs of especially-threatened refugees.

Improvement of immigration laws in Switzerland will mitigate legal problems with refugees. However, addressing the threat and poverty of refugee countries may also make a sizeable impact.

Haley Hurtt

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Switzerland Swiss Poor Areas Poverty Rate

Poverty in Switzerland remains lower than many of its European neighbors. However, rates still affect a large part of the population. So, why are the Swiss poor? In the country, a lack of awareness about poverty combined with a high cost of living compounds the struggles felt by impoverished residents. Below are the leading facts about poverty in Switzerland.

Top Seven Facts about Poverty in Switzerland

1. One in 13 Swiss Residents Lives Below the Poverty Line.

Switzerland is one of the world’s wealthiest nations. However, data shows that one in 13 residents of Switzerland are still living in poverty. This rate may come as a surprise to many, as Switzerland is often associated with economic stability. By comparison, an estimated one in five residents of Britain lives in poverty, while the average resident of Zurich makes 21 times more per hour than the average resident of Kiev, Ukraine. Switzerland’s poverty rate is significantly lower than nearby European nations, however, 6.6 percent of the Swiss population still lives in poverty.

2. The High Cost of Living Amplifies the Issue.

Residents of Switzerland must account for a high cost of living; food prices and the cost of housing make daily financial needs quite high. Mandatory private health insurance adds further expense. Recent reports show Zurich and Geneva as two of the most expensive cities in the world in terms of cost of living, with certain reports placing the cities above New York City. However, higher incomes in the cities typically offset this cost, with high purchasing power reported. As a result, Zurich and Geneva rank second and third respectively in terms of purchasing power (surpassed only by Luxembourg.)

3. The Poverty Line is Set to Incorporate the Cost of Living.

In order to account for the high cost of living in Switzerland, the poverty rate has been set to incorporate the financial demands of living in the country. For a single person, the poverty line is set as making less than 2,200 francs per month (equal to slightly more than $2,200 in the U.S.) A couple living with two children is considered below the poverty line if earning less than 4,050 francs per month. Poverty in Switzerland is understood as the inability to afford the goods and social services necessary for a healthy and socially integrated life. The Swiss Conference for Social Statistics sets poverty line thresholds based upon meeting those needs.

4. Elderly, Immigrant and Single-Parent Populations are Especially Vulnerable.

Certain populations in Switzerland are especially vulnerable to poverty. These populations are much like the vulnerable populations in many countries, including families with only one parent, elderly residents, the unemployed, unskilled laborers and people living alone. Rates of poverty among these populations are significantly higher than other demographics. For example, those over the age of 60 are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty.

5. Trial and Error Approach to Solutions, Including Universal Basic Income.

As Switzerland seeks to address the levels of poverty that remain in the country, a referendum was voted on which would have paid each Swiss family a weekly guaranteed income. While the referendum failed in a vote this June, it represents an innovation in seeking solutions to poverty. Switzerland is the first country to consider a solution of this kind. Some consider the failure an important step, nonetheless, as it provides a platform for discussing the meaning of basic income.

6. Wages and Income Can Be Quite High in Relation to European Neighbors.

Incomes in Swiss cities are often quite high, with the average resident of Zurich earning $41 per hour or more. This level of earning is often what leads to the association of Switzerland with a lifestyle of security and contributes to offsetting high costs of living. However, for the 6.6% of Swiss residents who do live in poverty, keeping up with city living costs (dependent on similar wages) can lead to a daily struggle.

7. Poverty in Switzerland is Decreasing.

The good news for addressing poverty in Switzerland is a recent decrease in the number of those living in poverty. Since 2007, rates have decreased from 9.3% to 6.6%.

Assessing poverty in Switzerland demonstrates the importance of not allowing a minority impoverished population to go overlooked. The country’s innovative and consistent efforts to address poverty represent a democratic model for the discussion surrounding poverty in developed nations.

Charlotte Bellomy

Photo: Flickr

Switzerland_ Education
Education in Switzerland is not only unconventional compared to many other nations but also compulsory. With a wide variety of schools ranging from local Swiss schools to private schools to bilingual schools to international schools, the education standards are extremely high and, much like Switzerland itself, anything but boring.

  1. The education system of Switzerland is largely decentralized. There exists 26 cantons, which are overseen by the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI). However, each canton creates and implements its own standards, which can be detrimental for families moving from one region of the nation to another.
  2. Switzerland is ranked number nine out of 65 nations and economies in a recent OECD/PISA survey of educational standards among 15-year-olds.
  3. Most of the local and international schools are free but still exist at the cost of parents’ paying extremely high taxes. Education in Switzerland is compulsory, so there really is no way for parents to sidestep paying such taxes.
  4. Compulsory education lasts for 9–11 years, with some children beginning compulsory education when they are four years old and others at six years, until about 15 years old.
  5. Since most students are educated in state schools, they will be learning in an environment that is rich in a variety of cultures, including variations in linguistic backgrounds.
  6. Like many universities in the U.S., Switzerland’s school year conventionally begins between August and September and will carry on for two periods of 12 weeks at a time.
  7. However, the times in which schools operate may be a bit stressful for working parents. Younger students will normally attend school in the morning with a break in the afternoon, which can be potentially problematic for many parents. Many schools do offer supervised lunches and after school care to alleviate such inconveniences.
  8. The structure of Switzerland’s system begins with primary education (a sort of kindergarten), then a lower secondary education followed by an upper secondary education, which may even include vocational training. The highest level, tertiary level education, is university level or higher education.
  9. Home schooling is uncommon in Switzerland. In fact, laws addressing it vary from canton to canton, and in some cantons, it is considered illegal.
  10. Most notably, children and young adolescents with special educational needs have a right to education and support from specialists from birth up until their 20th birthday. Children are assessed by specialized agencies of their canton and are given support through their school, which is also mainly free, though some special cases may vary.

Education in Switzerland ultimately exists to provide schooling for all, regardless of background or disability, a vision that embodies Global Goal number four established by the U.N. to eliminate extreme poverty.

Veronica Ung-Kono

Photo: Flickr