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News and information from Switzerland about Switzerland: direct democracy, education, science, business, living in Switzerland and a lot more – current, informative, in depth and in 10 languages (English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Russian).
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Want a job in Switzerland? Take a hint from top companies

Fr, 10/19/2018 - 11:00
swissinfo.ch readers dive into our content in ten languages and come from all over the world. No wonder one of their most recurring questions is: How do I get a job in Switzerland? The Alpine nation is home to thousands of foreign and Swiss multinational corporations, many of them with compelling opportunities for the globally minded and multilingual professional. We asked some of Switzerland’s largest multinational companies, representing an array of sectors, what they look for in a candidate.  The answers yielded some clear trends but also some interesting caveats. Matchmaking 101 Having Nestlé, Roche, Glencore, ABB or LafargeHolcim on your business card might sound great but don’t waste time if you don’t have the skills and expertise needed for the job. Hiring managers at all five companies highlighted first and foremost the importance of meeting the technical requirements of any given position. Being in sync with company values and developmental potential came a close ...
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‘Swiss first’ principle could cause upset at ballot box

Fr, 10/19/2018 - 06:00
A rightwing proposal to put the Swiss constitution above international law has potential to win a majority in next month’s vote, despite modest initial support, pollsters say. Another initiative to grant financial support to farmers who keep cows with horns could also be successful on November 25. However, opponents of increased powers for social welfare detectives are unlikely to find broad support. The opinion poll, published on Friday, was carried out seven weeks ahead of voting day by the GfS Bern research institute on behalf of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). For details see below. Despite a gap of 16 percentage points, the initiative by the Swiss People’s Party still stands a chance of catching up with its opponents. These comprise an impressive alliance of political parties from left to centre-right, the business community, trade unions, representatives of civil society, as well as parliament and the government. “There is limited support at the moment for ...
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The Big Blockchain Lie

Do, 10/18/2018 - 21:57
With the value of Bitcoin having fallen by around 70% since its peak late last year, the mother of all bubbles has now gone bust. More generally, cryptocurrencies have entered a not-so-cryptic apocalypse. The value of leading coins such as Ether, EOS, Litecoin, and XRP have all fallen by over 80%, thousands of other digital currencies have plummeted by 90-99%, and the rest have been exposed as outright frauds. No one should be surprised by this: four out of five initial coin offerings (ICOs) were scams to begin with.  Faced with the public spectacle of a market bloodbath, boosters have fled to the last refuge of the crypto scoundrel: a defense of “blockchain,” the distributed-ledger software underpinning all cryptocurrencies. Blockchain has been heralded as a potential panacea for everything from poverty and famine to cancer. In fact, it is the most overhyped – and least useful – technology in human history. In practice, blockchain is nothing more than a glorified spreadsheet.
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Swiss glaciers surrender secrets of the past

Do, 10/18/2018 - 11:00
Neolithic wooden bows, quartz arrowheads and a prayer book: As Alpine glaciers melt and retreat, well preserved archaeological treasures and human remains are surfacing. A new exhibition presents some of the rare finds.  “If you are on a glacier, any piece of wood you find is likely to have been brought there by a human. If the wood looks unusual and like it’s been worked upon by man, you should contact the archaeological service about it,” declares Pierre-Yves Nicod.  The archaeologist and Valais History Museum curator recently inaugurated the “Mémoires de glace: vestiges en péril” [Icy memories - vestiges in danger] exhibition in the town of Sion, a small but important collection of objects dating from 6,000 BC up to the last century, which had been frozen in time beneath Alpine glaciers. Most were found by hikers or skiers at high altitude and later verified by archaeologists using carbon-dating techniques. Among the poignant most recent vestiges are the heavy black boots ...
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A taste of Switzerland in 1980s America

Mi, 10/17/2018 - 17:00
If you're a child of the American ‘80s, there’s a good chance you spent a lot of your time at the mall. You bought your clothes there. You played Donkey Kong at the arcade and tossed copper pennies in the fountains. The mall of my youth provided all of that and more, for it was there that my seven-year-old mind learned there existed a country called Switzerland. Over the next few months we'll be uncovering how Switzerland has left its mark on the United States. From small place names to forgotten monuments and distant communities, we're tracking down 'Swissness', far from home. Tim Neville is our journalist on the ground Do you know of a Swiss connection in the US? Tell us! The Salisbury Plaza sat in Salisbury, Maryland, in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, but it could have been anywhere in rural America. Its 600,000-square foot (56,000 square metre) floor plan was laid out in an H shape. It held a Camelot music store filled with cassette tapes (and soon CDs!) and a ...
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Autumn of discontent in the land of labour harmony

Mi, 10/17/2018 - 16:21
Switzerland is not known for a high level of trade union organisation or for frequent strikes. But here too, labour conflicts sometimes erupt onto the streets. This is the case with the current dispute around working conditions in the construction industry. For the second day running, on Wednesday, some 1,000 striking construction workers marched in Geneva. An estimated 1,800 took part on Tuesday. This comes after a similar protest by about 3,000 from the profession in canton Ticino on Monday. The workers are protesting what they say are deteriorating working conditions, as well as demanding that the retirement age for the industry be kept at 60. Further action is planned in the rest of the country in coming weeks, a situation that could represent one of the biggest labour protests in Switzerland in recent years. Seeds of discontent The conflict has been in the air for a while. Last autumn, for the umpteenth time, construction workers expressed dissatisfaction at not having ...
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Sexual harassment still shrouded in secrecy in big companies

Mi, 10/17/2018 - 11:00
In the #metoo era, there are exceptional examples of corporate leadership like IKEA Switzerland. Its code of conduct is widely disseminated among employees, and it openly admits cases of sexual harassment and has a proactive plan to address them. But, for most multinationals in Switzerland, sexual harassment is still discussed behind closed doors.  So, has anything changed in big companies since the start of the #metoo movement a year ago? The #metoo movement has led to some corporate soul-searching. “#metoo was like an earthquake in Switzerland,” says Judith Wissmann Lukesch, a trained lawyer and founder of arbeitundkonflikt.ch (Work and Conflict), which advises companies on discrimination cases and internal investigations. “Companies have started asking, could this happen to us?” It isn’t just the usual suspects either, she explains. “Companies in tourism and design fields that once saw themselves as untouchable are also asking the question.” What the movement has made ...
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Global economic competitiveness stumbles in face of technology transformation

Mi, 10/17/2018 - 00:01
A major update to the World Economic Forum’s annual Global Competitiveness Index reveals that the global economy is ill-prepared for the transformation brought on by technology disruption.  While the United States comes the closest to the “competitive frontier” taking the top spot in the ranking, the WEF warns that government policies need to catch up to prevent rapid technological change from becoming a drag on competitiveness. Around three-quarters of economies lack sufficient innovation capabilities, impacting economic competitiveness according to the study. The annual Index, launched on Wednesday, assesses national competitiveness for 140 economies through the factors that determine an economy’s level of productivity including institutions, infrastructure, business dynamism among other areas. Evolving concept of competitiveness The Geneva-based WEF revamped the Index to reflect the changing nature of economic competitiveness in the age of rapid innovation and digital ...
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The highs and lows of opening a safe drug injection centre

Di, 10/16/2018 - 11:00
Switzerland’s pragmatic approach to dealing with drug addicts is often upheld as a model. Safe injection centres, which form part of Swiss policy, have existed in eight cities for over 30 years. Yet opening such facilities is fraught with difficulties, as the new Lausanne centre has shown.   At the reception desk at Lausanne’s new safe injection centre, sheets of aluminium foil, syringes, crack pipes and other drug paraphernalia are piled up in white plastic boxes.  The newly painted facility – white walls with splashes of lime green - comprises an “injection space” with four desks and chairs, an “inhalation space” for four around a circular metal table, a “sniff” room and a small health clinic with a bed.  Local councillor Oscar Tosato, one of the driving forces behind the three-year CHF4-million ($4 million) pilot project, said the centre, which opened on October 1, was the missing element in Lausanne’s portfolio of services for addicts. He is certain it will help problematic ...
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The day UBS, the biggest Swiss bank, was saved

Di, 10/16/2018 - 08:00
Swiss bank UBS fell victim to its high-risk strategy of expansion in the US market when the financial crisis erupted ten years ago. But the Swiss government and central bank’s plan to bail out UBS was not only successful, but profitable too. "We are not surprised by the development of the financial markets in recent weeks, but we have been surprised by the speed in which the crisis has deteriorated,” said the then Swiss president Pascal Couchepin. In his address to the media on October 16, 2008 Couchepin outlined the measures taken by the government and the Swiss National Bank (SNB) to rescue the largest Swiss bank.  The tension in the press room was palpable. After the grounding in 2001 of Swissair, a national icon, Switzerland was in danger of losing another flagship company.  This time, the consequences would have been far more dramatic. In Switzerland alone, the collapse of UBS would have threatened the savings of one million private customers and the current accounts of ...
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The Swiss hunt: collecting the reward for a year’s work

Mo, 10/15/2018 - 11:00
The strictly controlled hunting season is underway in Switzerland. Clare O’Dea is initiated into a ritual that draws tens of thousands of Swiss to the mountains with their rifles each autumn.   We are scrambling over loose rocks on the steep mountainside when a shot rings out. It is a quarter to eight on a pristine, sunny morning on the Euschels Pass, in the western part of the pre-Alps. Around us, the peaks create a natural amphitheatre for this most ancient of human dramas – the hunt. There is no time to stop. We are out in the open and must make it to the hiding place before the chamois arrive. I step with extra care, mindful of the story I heard the night before about the hunter who broke his leg when he slipped between two rocks. Hunting lore is full of cautionary tales. A short time later we reach a boulder the size of a minivan which will be our base and vantage point for the rest of the morning. My hunting guide is called Thomas. Fellow members of his hunting club, ...
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Opportunity knocks for Switzerland in the US

Mo, 10/15/2018 - 11:00
US President Donald Trump prefers bilateral agreements to multilateral ones. For Switzerland, this signifies an opportunity – but also uncertainty. This week Switzerland’s top trade diplomat is travelling to Washington to hold talks about a possible free-trade agreement.  You can’t blame Trump for everything. EU politicians, US journalists and Chinese functionaries happily portray him as digging free trade’s grave – and it’s true that his wildly distributed punitive tariffs certainly make exchanges between countries harder.  Now, however, the drawbacks of Trump’s import-export dealings are becoming apparent: he agreed to sign a free-trade pact with Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto in only 90 days, at the same time upending the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).  Trump the businessman, it turns out, doesn’t want to be a protectionist. But he has something against supraregional packages. Abbreviations such as NAFTA, WTO or TPP are anathema to him. As a result, ...
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Hunting season, heroin addicts and a Swiss taste of Americana

So, 10/14/2018 - 12:00
Here are some of the stories we'll be following the week of October 15:     Monday The arrival of autumn signals the beginning of the Swiss hunting season. Like almost everything in the country, strict rules apply. We follow a group of hunters hoping to bag the elusive chamois.     Tuesday Coexistence between local residents and drug addicts has proven difficult in the city of Lausanne in western Switzerland. We examine if a new multi-million-franc safe injection centre can improve relations between the two.     Wednesday A year after the global “Me Too” campaign began, sexual harassment in the workplace is on the radar of Swiss companies. We analyse if firms are serious about tackling workplace culture or view allegations as merely a reputational risk issue.     Thursday In Islam, imams are religious guides who, unlike Christian priests, are neither required nor trained to offer pastoral care. We examine if there is a need for specialists to offer ...
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Screen romance à la Romansh

So, 10/14/2018 - 11:00
Glisch, camera, acziun! The first professional feature film in Romansh, one of Switzerland’s four national languages, was a success at the Locarno Film Festival and has been picked up by an American distributor. How significant is such exposure for Romansh culture?  “Romansh might be the least widely spoken Swiss national language, but Amur Senza Fin tells in a universal language and with a wonderful sense of humour a story about love and devotion. It’s the type of film that inspires audiences all around the world.”  That was Edward Noeltner, head of Cinema Management Group (CMG), poetically explaining the potential that his LA-based company sees in Amur Senza Fin, which literally means “endless love” although the international title is Hide and Seek.  The 91-minute film was actually made for television by the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC), swissinfo.ch’s parent company, and has a classic sitcom set-up: a rural community in eastern Switzerland gets a new priest, who turns ...
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Record expat pay packets and stress at work

Sa, 10/13/2018 - 17:00
Almost every article published by swissinfo.ch contains a percentage, an age, an amount of money or some other figure. Here’s a round-up of the most interesting statistics to appear in the past week’s stories. Monday 19 The number of points – out of 20 – awarded by the Gault&Millau guide to Chef of the Year Heiko Nieder, who cooks at the Dolder Grand hotel in Zurich. No one has ever reached 20 in Switzerland.  Tuesday 3 Good news for the Swiss economy, which is predicted to grow by 3% by the end of the year, according to the International Monetary Fund. In April, the IMF had forecast Switzerland’s GDP to rise by 2.3%.  Wednesday 27.1 The Job Stress Index – published on the eve of World Mental Health Day – shows “critical” workplace stress levels rising from 25.4% in 2016 to 27.1% in 2017. Critical meaning the workload is too large for the number of people available to handle it.  Thursday 202,865 Expats in Switzerland remain the highest earners globally, bringing ...
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What the statistics don’t say about teachers’ salaries

Sa, 10/13/2018 - 13:00
How much does a schoolteacher earn in Switzerland? The federal system means that there are big differences between the cantons. There is also a gap between theory and practice. If you’re a Kindergarten teacher, you’d be better off working in the French-speaking canton of Geneva than in the southern Alpine canton of Graubünden: you’ll get CHF97,000 ($97,700) per year in the former, CHF60,000 in the latter. For primary school teachers, the story is the same: CHF97,000 in top payer Geneva, versus CHF66,000 in Italian-speaking Ticino. When it comes to secondary school, the salary gap is less: CHF105,000 in Geneva compared with CHF85,000 in the central canton of Nidwalden. Overall, the average pay for a new teacher in Switzerland with the right qualifications is CHF82,500, or CHF6,875 per month, gross (without deductions). Salaries rise through a teacher’s career, with the maximum you can earn at CHF8,700 per month… From theory to practice But it’s not quite as simple as that.
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Lopreno: ‘A philosopher who thinks with light’

Sa, 10/13/2018 - 11:00
After publishing his photographic collection, "Voyage en Suisse" ("Journey to Switzerland"), Geneva photographer Patrick Gilliéron Lopreno continues his wanderings on the outskirts of an iconic Switzerland with "Eloge de l’invisible" ("Praise for the Invisible").  The photographer's new work has been enriched by an encounter, as unlikely as it is successful, with writer, publisher and polemicist Slobodan Despot, who wrote the preface. Left-leaning Lopreno and rightwing Despot shared their views on the Swiss landscape, its spirituality blighted by modernity. They found themselves also in agreement in their rejection of labels and fashions, as well as in their thirst for freedom.   "Anti-modern, anti-liberal, anti-system", as Swiss newspaper Le Temps described him, Slobodan Despot was totally in tune with Lopreno's work: "A book of photographs itself is  a gesture of resistance", he wrote. Resistance to what?  "First, to massification... photography, which was at first a highly ...
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Kiss-and-tell visa incident sparks official criticism

Fr, 10/12/2018 - 17:00
A Vietnamese woman had to share intimate relationship information to get a short-term Swiss visa. The case highlights the potential for discrimination when visa applications are processed.  The woman, whose case was described in the Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag, was applying for a 30-day tourist visa to visit her boyfriend in Switzerland. She got the visa, but only after letting a clerk in Hanoi read her digital love letters – a stream of smartphone chat messages, including kissing emojis, that she and her partner had been sending to each other.  “It is an exceptional case. The error was corrected immediately,” George Farago, spokesman for the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), told swissinfo.ch.  The application had been handled by an external provider tasked with processing visa requests for Switzerland. Globally there are about 60 such external offices that have been engaged to reduce the visa-related workload of the Swiss embassies and consulates. However, the ...
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Public gets hands-on experience with Swiss drones in Boston

Fr, 10/12/2018 - 17:00
Swiss drones were front and centre this week at HUBWeek, an “ideas festival” in Boston, Massachusetts dedicated to showcasing and celebrating innovations at the intersection of art, science and technology. More than 25 researchers and entrepreneurs from Switzerland’s rapidly growing drone industry came to exchange ideas, experiences and technology with their North American counterparts and the Boston public. A“flying cage” was set up so the public could experience live demonstrations of the latest drone technologies. The showcase was organised by swissnex Boston as part if its Aerial Futures: the Drone Frontier series (see box), and sponsored by SwissTouch, an event series and social media campaign aimed at promoting Swiss innovation by the Embassy of Switzerland in the US. The more than 45 drone exhibitors at the event included representatives from the Swiss Federal Technology Institute in Lausanne, EPFL, who demonstrated multiple projects including FlyJacket, a system that ...
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The four ingredients of a successful people’s initiative

Fr, 10/12/2018 - 11:00
The people’s initiative is the fundamental instrument of Swiss direct democracy, but a number of invisible hurdles complicate its outcome. What’s needed to make an initiative successful? This text is part of #DearDemocracy, a platform on direct democracy issues, by swissinfo.ch. A people’s initiative allows citizens to put an idea on any topic to national vote, as long as they collect the requisite 100,000 signatures within a period of 18 months. But from the original idea to the final vote is a long and challenging road, and scant few have been voted through in recent years. So, what makes for a successful initiative? People who have launched their own, constitutional lawyers, and professional campaigners met to discuss the question at a public event in Zurich. Here are their four key takeaways. 1. It all begins with an idea The most important ingredient comes at the beginning of the process: a bright idea which is based on a deep conviction and which will appeal to people.
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