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Swiss Maid

The Untold Story of Women’s Contributions to Switzerland’s Success

Margrit V. Zinggeler

Swiss Maid corrects the omission of women from historical narratives of Switzerland. Women helped with herculean effort in the formation of the small but extraordinary nation, known for its political neutrality and stability, fierce independency, multiculturalism, successful economy, and innovation. The author’s investigation and analysis of women’s work in Switzerland correlates women’s contributions with the country’s sociopolitical and economic successes. Women have made historic change in religious institutions, domestic life, artisanry and trade, education, care work, the military, politics, industry and business, and service sectors. Chapters present the qualitative and quantitative data necessary to establish socioeconomic arguments. Women have indirectly contributed to the GNP but more importantly to social progress and the well-being of the nation. Stories of exemplary, pioneering women are highlighted, but silent and silenced common women are also featured and finally recognized. Although Judeo-Christian traditions placed women in subservient positions, they developed their own strength and contributed to the national economy. However, women’s work was not sufficiently recognized and valued because of inadequate accounting and productivity models. Gender-specific education, division of labor, and gendered social structures of previous centuries are discussed in relation to women’s productivity and social changes in more recent times. Multifactor productivity concepts and social progress measurements shed light on the value of women’s work and care. Portraits of historical and contemporary women attest to their intrepid courage and extraordinary yield, without which the "Swiss brand" and the image of Switzerland could not flourish.

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9 Caring for the Sick and Healing the Nation


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Someone who saves a life is called a hero.

Those who save hundreds of lives are called nurses.

—Margaret Chan, WHO General Director

To this day, caring for the sick, old, handicapped, children, and babies is predominantly—the responsibility of women, be it as in a chosen profession (paid) or services at home and charities (no pay). The number of women in Health Care and Social Services in Switzerland has increased from 2010 to 2015 from 434,000 to 499,000, while the number of men working in this field is about one-third the number of women. However, the number of men working in this field also increased from 131,000 to 148,000. The part-time work of health and social care professionals has more than doubled in the last decade to 420,000, and thereof 363,300 are women working part-time in this field. Female nurses earn on an average CHF 3,000 less than male nurses.1

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