In 2002, Switzerland was a prosperous country in Central Europe with a population of just over 7 million people. It had an area of 41,285 square kilometers and was bordered by France to the west, Italy to the south and Germany to the north. Its official language was German but French and Italian were also widely spoken in different regions. The majority of the population were Roman Catholic but other religions such as Protestantism and Islam were present as well. The economy was largely driven by exports including watches, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and machinery as well as banking services. In 2002, Switzerland had one of the highest GDPs per capita in the world at $38,800. Despite its wealth and economic success, there were still some social issues such as gender inequality with women holding fewer positions in politics than men. In addition to this, there were also high levels of immigration due to asylum seekers from countries such as Iraq and Somalia that resulted in cultural diversity within Switzerland’s borders. Education was free for all citizens up until university level and healthcare services were provided free of charge for all residents regardless of their nationality or income level. According to computerannals, Switzerland had achieved a high standard of living by 2002 while still striving towards greater social equality and economic prosperity for all its citizens.
Switzerland. It was a historic moment when the UN General Assembly in September adopted Switzerland as the UN’s 190th member state. According to Countryaah website, national day of Switzerland is every August 1. The Swiss finally felt that full participation in international cooperation outweighed strict neutrality. Just over 54% of voters said yes to membership in the referendum in May, but the proposal went through in just 12 of the country’s 23 cantons – ie. by the smallest possible majority.
The vote made it clear that there was a gap between the French and German-speaking parts of the country. In the French-speaking regions, two-thirds voted for membership; in the German-speaking, an equal proportion voted against.
In another referendum, in June, the Swiss approved a change in the country’s strict abortion laws and thereby adapted to most Other Countries in Europe. Abortion was allowed until the week of pregnancy, while it was previously only allowed if the mother’s physical health was threatened. The proposal was adopted by a large majority.
Another noteworthy referendum was held in November, when the Swiss, with a marginal margin – less than 3,000 votes – rejected a proposal to tighten asylum legislation. The proposal had been tabled by the right-wing populist Party SVP and would have given Switzerland the toughest refugee laws in Europe. Switzerland had for a number of years had the largest number of asylum seekers per inhabitant in Europe.
Towards the end of the year, it was clear that Switzerland was close to stealing a large package of measures that the EU has long sought to enforce to prevent tax evasion. Several contradictory Member States demanded that Switzerland take similar measures to join itself. Switzerland opposed the requirement to disclose information on EU citizens’ bank accounts, other than in cases of suspected fraud.
The labor movement is formed
The system of homework meant that the Swiss labor movement was late organized in relation to the industrialization of the country. The Swiss Workers’ Union – founded in 1873 – had no more than 3,000 members and the Swiss Trade Union Union which replaced it in 1880 did not exceed this figure until 10 years later. The first victory of the labor movement was the Factory Act, approved by Parliament in 1877, which limited the working day to 11 hours and improved the worker’s situation. Until then, men, women and children had to work 14 hours, without the minimum conditions of hygiene and safety.
The formation of the Socialist Party in 1888 caused the Liberals, in 1894 and the Conservatives, in 1894 and 1912 to organize themselves throughout the country. For several decades, the party’s main goal was the establishment of the proportional electoral system – an old democratic endeavor.
Foreign workers in Switzerland made up 15% of the population in 1910. These were mostly anarchists and socialists persecuted in their own country. They influenced the labor movement towards radicalization.
The first World War led to strong tensions in Switzerland – especially between the German- and French-speaking parts. Under Ulrich Wile’s leadership, the Swiss army cooperated with Germany. Tensions were only weakened by France’s victory, with Switzerland formally approaching the Allies and joining the League of Nations. Although rescinded after three days due to pressure from the army, the general strike in 1918 caused the civilian forces to form an anti-socialist bloc. In the same year, the proportional electoral system was introduced.
The 1919 election campaigns marked the end of liberal hegemony. The Socialist Party’s 20% voting share led the Liberals to form a bloc with the peasants, who gained 14%, while the Conservatives won the second ministerial post in the Federal Council.
The 48-hour working week and factory law were passed, along with improvements in support for the unemployed and an extension of the agreements.