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Close to a fifth of Swiss workers think corruption widespread, says survey

Mudretsov Oleksandr

© Mudretsov Oleksandr |

A survey conducted by the advisory firm EY shows a rise in perceived corruption in the workplace in Switzerland.

18% of workers surveyed by the firm in Switzerland now think bribery and corruption are widespread in the country. While high this figure is well below the 33% average for Western Europe and the 51% average across all of the 41 countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and India that the survey covered.

Around a third of Swiss respondents said they had seen evidence of unethical practices in their own company, compared to 45% across Western Europe. The countries with the highest rates were Turkey and India where more than three quarters of respondents said they had witnessed unethical behaviour.

In Europe the countries with the worst ratings were Ukraine, Cyprus, Greece and Slovakia. Only Scandinavian countries outperformed Switzerland. In Denmark only 6% of respondents thought improper business practices were widespread there. In Germany the rate was 43%.

Massaging the results

One in five surveyed in Switzerland assumed Swiss companies often massaged their financial results to make them look better, compared to half in Austria and 42% in Germany.

Greasing the wheels with cash

Switzerland performed less well when it came to cash bribes. 14% of respondents in Switzerland thought cash bribes were OK if done to help your company emerge from a downturn unscathed, 4% higher than the average for Western Europe.

Younger staff less ethical

A higher percentage of 25–34 year-olds condoned unethical behaviour to save their company or boost their own career than older staff. One in four thought it was acceptable to offer bribes to win new orders or make progress with existing ones. Fewer than one in ten over 45 said they would do the same.

In addition, the younger generation was less trusting of colleagues, believing more strongly than any other age group that their colleagues would act unethically to boost career or pay. More than two thirds of young employees believed that their management would behave unethically if it meant saving the company.

Perception is not necessarily reality

Michael Faske, Partner and Head of Anti-Fraud at EY Switzerland said:”Despite the constantly growing awareness of corruption and bribery in Switzerland, the country hasn’t generally become more corrupt. The results can be explained by three factors in particular: the many public scandals have made people more aware of corruption; people quite simply notice unethical behaviour more readily; the law is also better enforced, so that more time and effort are put into prosecuting and punishing white-collar crime. It should also be borne in mind that Switzerland is an exporting country that comes into frequent contact with corruption through subsidiaries, suppliers and customers.”

The survey, conducted between November 2016 and January 2017, interviewed 4,100 employees in 41 countries. A total of 100 people were interviewed in Switzerland.  Anonymous interviews were conducted with senior and middle managers and other staff from a selection of the largest companies in each country. 


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Investec is a distinctive Specialist Bank and Asset Manager. We provide a diverse range of financial products and services to a niche client base in three principal markets, the United Kingdom, South Africa and Australia, as well as certain other geographies. Investec’s strategic goals are motivated by the desire to develop an efficient and integrated business on an international scale through the active pursuit of clearly established core competencies in the group’s principal business areas.
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