Embracing Diversity to Ensure Future Stability

7th December 2021

Trying to draw away from the pandemic, the world is now applying lessons learnt during the difficult period. Societies are gradually bouncing back with a special focus on sustainability, an idea that is put into practice not just through financial aid, but also with social solidarity. Located in the heart of Europe, Zurich lends itself as a case study of a pluralistic dynamic society which draws benefit from its diversity and serves as a role model of innovation, sustainability, and financial stability for many cities.

Words Vicky Koffa

Switzerland’s largest city has been rising in population the last two decades, bringing the number up to 400,000. People of different nationalities, professions, ages, and lifestyles live peacefully together side by side in a safe and tolerant environment, working for the city’s prosperity. The city’s administration has put in place several programs to stabilize and even increase this economic and social growth.

As a matter of fact, Zurich’s mayor Corinne Mauch, the first female and first openly lesbian person to be elected mayor of the city, has followed up in the last few years on a past initiative now called “Strategies 2035”, which includes guidelines for economic growth, sustainability, and inclusion among others. Attractive conditions for companies to operate in, a diversified industrial structure and a skilled workforce are goals set for a strong future economy. With sustainability in mind, local producers, resource-conserving use of energy, housing policy and green active mobility are also part of these strategies.

Unity Through Variation

Major role in the above-mentioned efforts, and one of the city’s strongest points, is social solidarity. The diversity of the population – one out of three people living in Zurich are not Swiss – is, in fact, a driver for tolerance of different cultures, educational backgrounds and mindsets. The city remains open to dialogue when challenges arise, and all demographic and social developments are considered before changes are made. 

The 171 different nationalities living in Zurich bring a variety of work experience and higher vocational education or a university degree, shaping innovation and progress. Tolerance becomes key ingredient to creating a safe living ecosystem, where mixed groups of people come together in an association, school, club, neighborhood activity or culture to produce a stronger unity and growth for their city.

Examples of the level of inclusion in the city include projects for the two extreme age groups; the elderly with the ‘old-age policy’ – which not only covers current needs but also takes anticipated changes into account, and the young adults and teenagers – offering early intervention and school education, as well as day programs and temporary solutions for young people who are outside the education system.

On the healthcare front, Zurich makes accessibility, quality, and suitable supply chain a priority. Community-based socio-medical services for all are part of the new inclusion strategy, along with sporting and cultural activities meant to boost exchange of ideas and perspectives for this multicultural crowd. To top it all off, the city has established the Office for Equality, a competence center and contact point for the legal and actual equality of women and men and of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex people in all areas of life.

Inclusion in the Private Sector

As diversity expands outside the local administration’s jurisdiction, private companies follow the same principles of inclusion. “Switzerland stands for diversity, innovation, and quality. Google’s Swiss center has maintained its international competitiveness for years – with key services such as Google Search, Google Maps, Google Assistant, or YouTube. Zurich is Google’s largest research and development center outside the USA, employing almost 2,500 staff. For this to be successful, an in-depth knowledge of languages and cultures are essential. With some 85 different nationalities, our workforce in Zurich covers this diversity,”says Patrick Warnking, Country Director Google Switzerland.

Innovative projects like the Hunziker site in Zurich-Leutschenbach are a role model for a new living style. Since 2014-2015, the Hunziker Areal has offered living space for 1,200 people and about 150 jobs, with apartments for old and new forms of living, rentable living and working rooms, a wide range of communal spaces and leisure infrastructure. On this environmentally friendly site, a high level of diversity in terms of age, origin and economic and professional background is part of everyday life.

Tourism Without Restrictions

Infrastructure in Zurich has not fallen behind. The Placid Hotel Zurich is just one example of hotels with a social conscience. The focus of the hotel is accessibility for all, ensuring that also people with a handicap enjoy design and lifestyle. With Martin Heyne, hotel director and supporter of the barrier-free pilot project by the Association for Accessible Tourism Switzerland, the building is designed to cover the needs of small or large groups, with disabilities or not, with various cultural differences, all in a beautifully decorated environment.

Zurich Tourism, the city’s destination marketing organization, oversees quality and sustainable touristic activities and promotes inclusion through its administration (50% of the management team are women). «Welcome to Zurich» city tour for refugees – a special city tour to welcome refugees to the city and an offer to take language courses – is a forward-looking project in this direction. Partner of the OK:GO initiative, which helps the Swiss tourism industry address the travel requirements of senior citizens and people with disabilities appropriately, Zurich Tourism shows true social engagement for the present and the future. 

Contact: congress@zuerich.com / www.meeting.zuerich.com

More info on Switzerland as a convention destination: myriam.winnepenninckx@switzerland.com / www.MySwitzerland.com/meetings

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