Federal debt

Brief summary

Federal debt stood at CHF 120 billion at the end of 2022, which corresponds to a debt ratio of 15.6% of GDP. The Maastricht debt ratio for the general government (Confederation, cantons and communes) was 27.6% of GDP at the end of 2022.

Nevertheless, Switzerland's level of debt remains low by international standards. The Confederation has the debt brake to thank for this. Federal debt was still around CHF 130 billion in 2005. The federal government significantly reduced the level of debt following the introduction of the debt brake in 2003, but it rose sharply again between 2020 and 2022 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The coronavirus-related debt is reflected in the shortfall in the amortisation account. This shortfall, which resulted from extraordinary expenditure less extraordinary receipts, amounted to CHF 22.7 billion at the end of 2022 and must be eliminated in accordance with the Financial Budget Act (FBA). Parliament chose to adhere to this complete elimination, but extended the timeframe for doing so. This debt is to be reduced again by 2035, using future financing surpluses in the ordinary budget and extraordinary receipts arising from the profit distribution by the Swiss National Bank.

Debt and debt ratio trends between 1990 and 2022
Debt and debt ratio trends between 1990 and 2022

Wie setzen sich die Schulden des Bundes zusammen?

What is the composition of federal debt?

Around CHF 83 billion of the debt is money and capital market debt. The Confederation's gross debt also includes other liabilities, such as outstanding payments vis-à-vis taxpayers, cantons or federal enterprises.

How does the Confederation take on debt?

In order to raise borrowed capital, the Confederation issues debt instruments, so-called Confederation bonds and money market debt register claims. These debt instruments are securities and, like other securities, can be freely traded by the holders during the term.

  • Money market debt register claims are short-term borrowings, i.e. loans, mostly with a term of three months and a maximum of 12 months.

  • Confederation bonds guarantee more long-term borrowing and have maturities of up to 50 years.

The Confederation pays a price for its debt, i.e. debt interest. This totalled almost CHF 939 million in 2022. The federal government pursues a long-term strategy and therefore issues debt instruments with maturities of up to 50 years.

From whom does the federal government borrow?

As the money market and capital market instruments issued are traded and the name of the holder is not registered, the federal government does not know exactly who holds them. However, the statistics of the Swiss National Bank give an indication of the likely composition of the Confederation bond investor base: domestic investment funds and insurance companies account for a large proportion, foreign investors represent around 17%, and the remainder is shared by pension funds, banks and other domestic investors. Consequently, most of the federal debt is owed to domestic institutional investors.

Investorenbasis der «Eidgenossen»
Investorenbasis der «Eidgenossen»


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Last modification 07.09.2023

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