Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are crucial to the Swiss economy. However, the large number of multinationals based in Switzerland, especially the major pharmaceutical companies, also contribute disproportionately to GDP.

Equipment at a production plant.
Family firms like Buehler AG in Uzwil provide two-thirds of all jobs in Switzerland. © Hanspeter Baertschi

SMEs employing fewer than 250 staff are the lifeblood of the Swiss economy. They account for over 99% of all businesses and provide roughly two-thirds of the jobs in Switzerland. Many SMEs are family businesses.

Switzerland is also home to some major multinationals. Although SMEs vastly outnumber the multinationals, these major companies employ a large number of staff and contribute disproportionately to GDP. Nestlé, the food and beverages giant, is the largest employer, with a 273,000-strong workforce worldwide. Switzerland is home to 14 of the 500 largest companies in the world in terms of market capitalisation. These include Novartis and Roche (pharmaceuticals), UBS, Credit Suisse, Zurich and SwissRe (financial services and insurance), Glencore (commodities trading), Nestlé, Migros and Coop (food and beverages), Holcim (building materials), Adecco (human resources) and ABB (engineering and technology). Many of these companies are headed by foreign nationals with international experience and expertise.