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Starting a Business in Switzerland

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Starting a Business in Switzerland

Switzerland Business Experts

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Why Start A Business In Switzerland?

The Swiss economic policy is based on the principle of free trade and industry guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, with low import duties and only a few import quotas, which are mainly restricted to the heavily regulated agricultural sector. Switzerland has virtually no natural resources and only a limited surface area. It has therefore, been forced to build its wealth on foreign trade. Compared to other countries, Switzerland maintains a very high export rate in terms of percentage of its gross domestic product. Due to its relatively small domestic market - with a total population of approximately 7.5 million - Swiss manufacturers depend on foreign markets in order to make investments in research and development worthwhile.

Due to its geographic location, the German-speaking, French and Italian cultures meet in Switzerland. The diversity of cultures, languages, religions and the large number of foreign residents, especially in the financial centres of Zurich and Geneva, usually serve as an incentive for foreign companies and international organisations to establish a domicile in Switzerland.

Living & Working in Switzerland

What is the population?

The population of Switzerland is approximately 7.79 million

Economic Overview

A stable, modern economy - one of the most capitalist economies in the world - welcome anyone setting up a business in Switzerland. It has the 2nd highest European rating after Ireland in the Index of Economic Freedom (2008). The World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness Report currently ranks Switzerland's economy as the second most competitive in the world. Switzerland has overwhelmingly private sector economy and low tax rates by Western standards, in fact, overall taxation is one of the smallest of all developed countries.

Switzerland's most important industries are Chemicals, health and pharmaceutical, Measuring instruments, Musical instruments, real estate, banking, insurance, tourism, and international organizations.

Switzerland's main exports are machinery, chemicals, metals, watches, agricultural products, and services. The largest exported goods are chemicals (34%), machines/electronics (20.9%), and instruments/watches (16.9%). Exported services amount to a third of exported goods. The main export partners are Germany (21.9%), Italy (8.4%), France (8.3%), US (8.3%), UK (5.2%) and Austria (4.4%). The country's main imports are machinery, chemicals, vehicles, agricultural products, metals, and textiles. The main import partners are Germany (28.3%), Italy (10.4%), US (9.6%), France (8%), Belgium (4.2%) and the UK (4%).

Switzerland, although politically neutral, has strong ties with the EU through bilateral agreements. Internally, Swiss policy is conducted through a system of national referendums, and the country is divided into 26 cantons which have a high degree of independence in terms of policy and law-making.

What are the essentials to know?

In Switzerland a company can be established in the form of a corporation or a limited liability company. A company does not need a license to do business in Switzerland, except in circumstances where the business is subject to licensing requirements.

The shareholders of a Swiss company do not need to be Swiss citizens or Swiss companies.

Business Laws

Business Hours - Business hours are 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-17:00, Monday to Friday.

Working Hours - The maximum legal working hours is 45 hours per week.

Minimum Wage in Switzerland - There is no statutory minimum wage in place in Switzerland, however, some general labour agreements stipulate minimum wages for certain sectors.

Holiday's - Holiday leave is usually 4 weeks for employees aged over 20.

Etiquette

  • The handshake is the customary form of greeting with every person that you meet
  • Swiss society is very formal and people tend to address each other by their surname
  • Romansch is spoken by 1% of the population in the eastern part of the country and Swiss-German is spoken in all the German-speaking cantons
  • The Swiss are known for getting the best possible deal in negotiations through quiet self-confidence and a no-nonsense approach, avoiding hard-selling and high- pressure tactics
  • Businesspeople are expected to wear suits
  • Business cards are given out at every business meeting

Useful Contacts

The following overseas contacts will provide you with very useful information about setting up a business in Switzerland:

British Embassy, Berne
Thunstrasse 50
CH - 3005 Berne
Tel: +41 31 359 7700
Fax: +41 31 359 7701

British Consulate General
Trade & Investment Section
Avenue Louis Casa 58
P.O. Box 6 1216
Cointrin
Geneva
Tel: +41 22 918 2478
Fax: +41 22 918 2322

Click here to Ask an Expert about Starting a Business in Switzerland

Organisations that can assist with Starting a Business

  • > Kompass (UK) Ltd

    If you are looking to start up or expand a business overseas then you will need a targeted and reliable data list to find new customers in your new market.

    More Details Visit Website
  • > CO-Handelszentrum GmbH

    Specialists in Swiss Company Formation and Administration

    More Details Visit Website
  • > B2B International

    B2B International is a global market research agency that specialises in b2b markets. With experience in every industry sector and country imaginable, we are well placed to help you establish your business overseas.

    More Details Visit Website
  • > TMF Group

    TMF Group helps companies expand and invest seamlessly across international borders.

    More Details Visit Website
  • > Radius

    Your Global Growth Experts. Radius helps businesses move into new markets, manage overseas operations or outsource entire global accounting and administration functions

    More Details Visit Website

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