Toolmaking Austria/Switzerland: Driven by exports

Author / Editor: Dr. Wolfgang Boos, Michael Salmen M.Sc., Thomas Kuhlmann M.Sc., M.Sc., Dipl.-Ing. Dipl.-Wirt.Ing. Max Schippers, Dipl.-Wirt.-Ing. Maximilian Stark / Barbara Schulz

During the course of 2016, WBA Aachener Werkzeugbau Akademie, Germany, presents spotlights of the most important international tool and mould markets. This edition focuses on Switzerland and Austria with their export-driven tooling markets.

Fig. 1: China's tool and mould production regions. The large share of the economic power concentrates on the east coast.
Fig. 1: China's tool and mould production regions. The large share of the economic power concentrates on the east coast.
(Source: WBA)

Switzerland and Austria are situated in the picturesque Alpine regions and share a part of their borders. Switzerland is a land of glacier-covered mountains and crystal-clear lakes. It is the global leader in the manufacture of high quality watches and has centuries of tradition in producing cheese and chocolate, while Austria brought forth composers like Mozart and Haydn and is the land of gentian and edelweiss, with a landscape that makes for an important part in tourism.

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Switzerland, located in central Europe, belongs with 8.06m citizens to the smaller European nations but is densely populated in the midlands. Austria, known as a transit nation in not only the north-south but also east-west routes, belongs to the world’s leading developed nations. It is a landlocked country in the middle of Europe with 8.22m citizens, which joined the EU in 1995. With 2m people, the percentage of foreigners in Switzerland is very high. Unlike most of its neighbors, Switzerland is not a member of the EU. Because of high immigration numbers, the UN assumes that the population will remain constant until 2050, despite a low birth rate. Austria was the 12th most popular immigration destination in 2012 according to the OECD. Both countries belong to the leading industrial nations in the world.

The Swiss economy and industry

Even though Switzerland is not a member of the EU, many regulations were designed in conformity to those of the EU. Trade restrictions are effective only in the agricultural industry, which makes for a small amount of the economic strength.

With 59%, the concentration of the economic performance in the four centres – Zurich, Geneva, Basel and Bern is in comparison to other countries very high. Measured in terms of the gross domestic product (GDP), Switzerland is one of the largest economies in Europe and the 20th largest economy in the world. With a GDP per capita of €78,000, the country leads the list of surveyed countries in the study “World of Tooling”.

The economy reached a growth of 1.7% per year for the last 4 years. With the end of the minimum exchange rate of the Swiss franc to the euro in January 2015 and the resulting appreciation of the franc, experts expect a decrease of growth in 2015 to 0.9%. Worldwide, Switzerland is currently the 23rd largest export and import nation. The country exported goods worth €308bn in 2012. The three biggest exports were high-tech products, weapons and pharmaceutical products. The service industry employs 75% of all employees.

The financial industry takes a key position in the service industry with 10.5% of the GDP. Switzerland is not endowed with natural resources, but covers 56% of its energy needs with hydroelectric power. The wage level of €45,197 in 2013 occupies the second position of all industrial nations.

On average, employees work 1,607 hours every year, which is 8% less than the average of the industrial nations. The labour laws are conducive for employers and allow for up to 50 hours per week and short notices of termination.