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Swiss Statistics

About public statistics – BackgroundMilestones

Swiss statistics - A potted history
  • Numbers are older than letters. Proof has been found that statistical surveys were conducted in even the earliest civilizations (Sumer, Egypt) for taxation and military purposes.
  • 58 BC: First evidence of a census within present-day Switzerland mentioned by Julius Caesar (Bellum Gallicum I, 29), who organized a population census after the Helvetians had tried in vain to flee to Gaul and sustained heavy losses.
  • In pre-French Revolution Switzerland, the way statistics looked at society and the life of the State grew and expanded, in line with English and German models. Examples include investigations by Johann Heinrich Waser (1742 - 1780) in Zurich or Louis Muret (1715 - 1796) in Berne-governed Vaud, neither of which avoided conflict with government. The cantonal Governments in their turn conducted population censuses, and in some cases livestock censuses, in the 17 th and 18 th centuries.
  • 1798, under the Helvetic Republic, the first Confederation-wide census was attempted but remained incomplete.
  • From the early 19 th century, statistics gained in importance as a source of information. Various quantitative descriptions of individual Cantons and of Switzerland as a whole were published, such as Stefano Franscini's «Statistica della Svizzera» (1827), conveying and promoting the concept of a Swiss national State. Population censuses were organized nationwide (by the Diet 1836/37) as well as in various Cantons. Berne founded the first statistical office (1848/1856), followed by Zurich (1868) and Aargau (1886).
  • With the founding of the Swiss Federal State in 1848, statistics gained in importance at national level becoming the task of the Department of the Interior under Stefano Franscini who conducted the first population census in the newly founded federal State.
  • 1860 saw the foundation of the Federal Statistical Bureau, the forerunner of the present Federal Statistical Office. The law on conducting population censuses every ten years was passed in the same year.
  • On 23 July 1870, Parliament approved a brief law confined to organizational issues about “official statistical surveys in Switzerland”.
  • The Law of 1870 resulted in the non-standardized, unsystematic development of statistics, with the setting up of statistical units in various government offices.
  • 1891: first edition of the Swiss Statistical Yearbook, issued by the Federal Statistical Office, a series which has been continued without interruption up to the present day.
  • 1987 and 1996: the Federal Statistical Office makes key statistical information available electronically online (STATINF database and website)
  • 1992: The Federal Statistical Act of 9 October 1992 replaced the 1870 Law, laying a modern foundation for Swiss statistics
  • 1998: the Federal Statistical Office moved from Berne to Neuchâtel
  • 1999: For the first time, the new federal constitution dating from 18 April 1999 includes an article regarding statistics
  • 2000: E-census: as a worldwide pioneer, the SFSO census form can be filled out on the Internet
  • 2004: Switzerland and the EU sign a bilateral agreement on cooperation on the administration of official statistics. The agreement came into effect on 1.1.2007.
  • 2006: Together with the new social insurance number, the Law on the Harmonisation of Registers, passed on 23rd June 2006, prepares the basis for harmonized registers of residents. The way is paved for register-based population surveys (or censuses), and at the same time data communication processes between official registers are standardized. This makes e-government applications possible.
  • 2007: The new Law on Population Censuses passed on 22nd June 2007 is the foundation for a modern and integrated statistical system in Switzerland, with which the demographic and household structures and their development can be observed.
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