Switzerland — National Outlook 2023:
A Personal View by Christian Ulrich
Officially, the pandemic was over in Switzerland at the beginning of 2022. People breathed freely again and set about shaping the future with a zest for action. However, the Russian invasion of Ukraine disrupted this optimism. Since then, the country has been back in crisis mode due to fears of an energy shortage as well as perceived uncertainty.
Nevertheless, our forecasts were quite accurate. Switzerland’s relations with the EU in 2022 became frostier over the course of the year. As a result, Switzerland remains excluded from the EU in areas such as research, electricity and health. A major obstacle to an agreement is the dispute settlement mechanism, which is supposed to go through the European Court of Justice. This is rejected by the population – apart from a small elite. We do not expect any substantial improvements here in 2023. One ray of hope could be the energy shortage in Europe induced by the war in Ukraine. After all, necessity is the mother of invention. The mutual dependencies in electricity and gas supply could bring about a closing of ranks and a focus on common interests between the two belligerents, Switzerland and the EU.
In 2022, the long-term thinking we predicted has also returned to companies. SMEs and corporations alike have set an important course or are in the process of doing so. In many places, the market orientation has been readjusted. The diversification of suppliers that began in 2021 to make the supply chain more resilient to crises has intensified. Companies also became more demanding when hiring employees – despite staff shortages. Companies have learned the lessons: Employees who don’t fit the company’s culture only add cost at the end of the day. We expect this trend to continue in 2023.
In Executive Search, we expect pricing pressure to continue to increase. The reasons for this are that new players will continue to enter the market in 2023 because the industry has a reputation for high margins. This will increase supply. At the same time, demand for executive search services will decrease as more companies follow the trend of in-house head hunting departments. Executive search firms that do not have a clear focus are likely to face further declining margins.
In 2022, there were substantial price increases for energy sources in Switzerland. We are convinced that this development will continue in 2023, as we do not expect any easing of international tensions or an end to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The topics of energy and climate are also likely to remain prominent on the political agenda in Switzerland. However, since the approach taken so far in the transition to renewable energies has paid too little attention to the issue of energy security, supporters of nuclear and fossil energy are boosted. Their argument: oil, gas and nuclear power offer more energy security – at least in the short term – than wind and solar energy. Energy policy reactionaries and sustainable energy advocates are likely to block each other in 2023. We therefore expect political gridlock on energy and climate issues.
Parliamentary elections will be held in 2023, followed by general government elections. In these elections, the people’s representatives elect the government, which comprises seven members. The composition of the government should correspond to the voter shares of the parties, whereby the voter shares of the past were also taken into account in the previous definition of the Federal Council’s “magic formula” in each case. The upcoming elections will dominate the political stage, especially since individual parties could lose seats in government depending on the outcome of the parliamentary elections. The reason for this is that currently four parties have similarly high voter shares SP (socialist, 16.8%), FDP (liberal, 15.1%), MITTE (no orientation, 13.9%), GPS (ecological, 13.2%), but are represented very differently in the national government – FDP and SP two seats each, MITTE one seat and GPS seatless. The remaining two seats are claimed by the SVP (right-bourgeois) with a voter share of 25.6%.
We expect the FDP, SP and SVP to maintain or increase their voter shares and thus retain their seats in government. These parties have a long tradition and embody values. They offer reliability and stability, which is important for a country with a high level of prosperity, but which has been shaken up emotionally for several years and is struggling with itself. Moreover, when it comes to energy, it has become clear that abrupt changes such as an imposed switch from fossil fuels to sustainable energy sources are not without problems. We believe that the Swiss population will once again opt for the boring political chattering that has been well-established for decades. In concrete terms, this means broad-based compromises that are reached at glacial speed. In doing so, the tried and tested should not be thrown overboard and experiments should be avoided.
We estimate that GPS will become a member of the government in 2023 at the expense of MITTE. However, this is not so much because we expect large seat gains for GPS, but because MITTE will lose further voter shares. This would mean that the party would not be represented in government for the first time in 130 years, which would represent a turning point. For years, MITTE has been a good example of how to ruin a political party by every trick in the book. Started as a bourgeois party with a Christian-Catholic orientation and clear values in the 19th century, these values were abandoned step by step with stupendous bigotry and replaced by opportunism. With the GPS in government, Switzerland too would finally have arrived in the ecological age, which Rachel Carson had inaugurated with her work Silent Spring in 1962.
Switzerland Facts & Figures
2022: 2% (estimated based on previous data)
2023: 0.8% (forecast)
2022: 2.2% (estimated based on previous data)
2023: 2.3%. (forecasted)
2022: 3% (estimated based on previous data)
2023: 2.4% (forecast)