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SOER Country

Country profile (Liechtenstein)

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

What are the factors that distinguish your country from many others?


Liechtenstein enjoys a temperate continental climate. The vertical configuration of the land plays a significant role. Measurements of annual rainfall show around 900 to 1 200 mm in the valleys, with up to 1 900 mm in the alpine region. In spite of the country’s mountainous location, the climate can be described as temperate. Owing to the warming effect of the south wind (Föhn), vines and maize are successfully cultivated in the valleys. The Föhn extends the growing season in both spring and autumn.




Figure 1: Total annual precipitation (Office of Agriculture - temperature


Figure 2: Total annual mean temperature (Office of Agriculture -



The Principality of Liechtenstein is a land-locked country lying between Austria and Switzerland. A high mountain range in the east forms a natural border with Austria, whilst the western border with Switzerland is formed by the Rhine. Two-thirds of the country is mountainous, while one-third consists of the densely populated Rhine Valley, on the valley plain of which nine of the total of eleven municipalities are located. Liechtenstein lies at between 430 and 2 499 m above sea level.



Figure 3: The Principality of Liechtenstein (left) and its location in the Alpine range (top right)

(Left figure: H. Schmuck, Office of Forests, Nature and Land Management -; right figure:


 rhine valleymalbun valley

Figure 4: The physical regions of Liechtenstein: Rhine Valley plain and forested Rhine Valley slopes (left image),

mountain region (right image) (Office of Forests, Nature and Land Management - - Photographs: E. Ritter)


With a population of around 36 000 inhabitants, Liechtenstein is one of the smallest states in Europe and the world. The number of inhabitants has almost tripled since 1950, primarily as a result of immigration. The population is distributed throughout eleven municipalities with a total area of 160 km2. The population density is 222 inhabitants per km2.

One-third of the population is of foreign nationality, primarily Swiss, Austrian and German. The foreign population is substantially younger than that of Liechtenstein nationals. Compared with other European states, persons of working age (20 to 64 years old) are represented to an above-average degree. By contrast, the proportions of children and elderly people in the population are below average.




Figure 5: Population 1901-2007

(Office for Statistics 2009 -

Form of government

The Principality of Liechtenstein is a constitutional hereditary monarchy on a democratic and parliamentary basis. State authority resides in the prince and in the people. The relatively strong position of the prince is balanced by far-reaching direct-democratic rights on the part of the people.


Liechtenstein has a highly diversified national economy (employment by economic sectors at the end of 2007: industry and manufacturing 39 %, general services 23 %, financial services 31 %, agriculture and public sector 6 %) and is strongly export-oriented.

The most important advantages of the country’s location include its geographically central position and its access to highly skilled professionals from the Lake Constance region.

More than one-half of the people employed in Liechtenstein live abroad. Such commuters make a major contribution to the production of the national economy of Liechtenstein and thus to its GDP. For the year 2007, gross domestic product amounted to around CHF 5.5 billion (CHF 155 000 per inhabitant). With a growth rate of 10.1 % at current prices, GDP rose dramatically again. In 1998 it was still only CHF 3.6 billion.

The international financial and economic crisis led the national economy of Liechtenstein into a sharp recession towards the end of 2008. In the meantime, however, early signs of stabilisation are to be seen. The gross domestic product for 2009 is expected to be substantially lower than in the record year of 2007.

Environmental Governance

Environmental policy in Liechtenstein is fundamentally the responsibility of The Ministry of Environmental Affairs, Land Use Planning, Agriculture and Forestry. The Amt für Umweltschutz [Office for Environmental Protection] is in charge of ensuring compliance with legislation  in the field of technical environmental protection (new Environmental Protection Law of 2008), whilst the Amt für Wald, Natur und Landschaft [Office for Forestry, Nature and Land Management] is responsible for nature conservation.

Relations between Liechtenstein and Switzerland are very close and strongly shaped by the Customs and Monetary Treaties between the two countries (Customs and Monetary Union). The Customs Treaty with Switzerland has a significant impact on environmental and fiscal strategies. Many Swiss environmental provisions (e.g. environmental standards) are applicable also in Liechtenstein or are implemented into Liechtenstein law on the basis of specific international treaty rules.

At the same time, Liechtenstein, by joining the European Economic Area (1995), has implemented a large proportion of EU legislation and participated in various EU programmes.


What have been the major societal developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

What have been the major societal developments since 1980 compared with the period 1950-1980, including their relevance for the environment?


The economy of the Principality of Liechtenstein provides about 32 000 jobs, slightly more than half of which are held by commuters from Switzerland, Austria and Germany. The figure of barely 1 400 persons commuting out of Liechtenstein seems modest by comparison.

Whilst in 1950 commuters made up only 11 % of the workforce, this had risen to 22 % by 1980, and grew rapidly in the period from 1980 to 2008, to over 50 % in 2008.

Proportion of employed persons by economic sector

In 1950, over 20 % of the employed still worked in agriculture and forestry. By 1980, the proportion of jobs in this sector had fallen very rapidly to 2.9 %. Today only 0.8 % of the employed still work in the primary sector. Between 1950 and 1980, the proportion of the employed in industry was well over 50 %. The national economy of Liechtenstein continues to be strongly characterised by industry, which along with manufacturing accounted for around 42% of jobs at the end of 2008 – an exceptionally high figure compared with other European countries. The proportion of the employed in the tertiary sector grew steadily between 1950 and 2008 from around 25 % to 57 %.

(Office for Statistics: Employment statistics for 2008)

Land use (Land-use Statistics)

Liechtenstein covers 160 km2, of which, at the end of 2008, 41 % was accounted for by planted areas, 33 % by agricultural land (arable land, meadows, plantations, alpine pastures), 11 % by settlement areas and 15 % by unproductive land. The built-up area more than doubled between 1950 and 1990, and increased again by 34 % between 1984 and 2008 to 1685 ha. The transport infrastructure covers close to 2.5 % of the entire territory. Arable land decreased by 15 % between 1955 and 1995 and by a further 4 % between 1996 and 2008.


In terms of quantity, building rubble accounts for the largest part of the flow of waste in Liechtenstein and is either recycled or disposed of in landfills. In order to increase the proportion recycled in this area, an implementation plan on ’Recycled building materials’ is currently being drawn up to illustrate actual measures to promote the recycling of building rubble.

As a result of the introduction in 1994 of waste collection fees in accordance with the ’polluter pays’ principle, Liechtenstein’s delivery of waste to the refuse incineration plant at Buchs (Switzerland) was almost halved and thereafter developed in parallel with the growth of the population.

Owing to the open border with Switzerland, the proportion of waste recycled cannot be ascertained, but is comparable with figures for Switzerland, where the proportion recycled is 50 % of total municipal waste. In 1986 this figure was only 24 %.

waste production



Figure 6: Development of waste production 1990-2008 (Office of Economic Affairs 2009 – out of ).


What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

What are the main drivers of environmental pressures and how do these contribute to multiple impacts on people and the natural environment?

Industry and Manufacturing

At the end of 2008, 572 companies were classed as belonging to the secondary sector. These were mostly smaller companies with fewer than 50 employees. Such companies operate in a large number of different market niches and thus contribute to the broadly diversified economic structure of Liechtenstein. Important branches of industry and manufacturing are mechanical engineering, apparatus engineering, the manufacture of dental products, vehicle construction, the preparation of foodstuffs, and the construction industry. Owing to Liechtenstein’s small domestic market, the larger companies in particular are very export oriented. The most important export countries for Liechtenstein’s industry and manufacturing sector are Switzerland, Germany and the USA.

(Office for Statistics: Employment Statistics for 2008)


In the past ten years, agriculture in Liechtenstein has been characterised by a phase of intense extensification and ’greening’. Among other things, the provisions laid down in agrarian legislation have been crucial for this. The move towards ’greening’ is achieved through incentives (compensation), fiats and prohibitions, and has elevated agriculture to a high level in ecological terms. The maintenance and preservation of the cultivated landscape are important tasks of agriculture. The Law on Compensation for Ecological and Animal-Friendly Performance in Agriculture came into force in 1996. Within a few years, almost all of the farms entitled to direct payments have converted to either ’Integrated Production’ (66 % in 2007) or organic production (27.6 % in 2007). The proportion of organic farms represents a record high internationally (12 % in Switzerland).

Transport und Mobility

Today, private motorised vehicles are the dominant means of transport, accounting for 67 % of traffic, whilst 16 % of journeys are by public transport and 17 % by foot or on bicycle. Business and shopping trips in particular are made in private motorised vehicles. For work traffic, the share accounted for by public transport is, at 17 %, relatively high compared with that for other purposes.

The number of motor cars in Liechtenstein has risen steadily in recent decades, but appears to be stabilising at the very high level of 700 cars per 1 000 inhabitants. In comparison, the rate of car ownership is much lower in Switzerland at around 520 cars per 1 000 inhabitants.

The volume of traffic in Liechtenstein is primarily due to journeys beginning or ending in Liechtenstein (50.4 %) and internal traffic (45.9 %). The share of through traffic is only 3.7 %.

These figures show that traffic is responsible for a considerable share of pollutants. Road traffic accounts for the largest part of nitrogen oxide emissions (58.1 %) and also a substantial part of carbon dioxide, PM10 and VOCs. The reduction in CO2 emissions achieved through technology has been largely cancelled out again by the continuing trend towards using heavier and more powerful vehicles in the Principality of Liechtenstein.

(Mobility policy of 2008, Government of the Principality of Liechtenstein)


Since 1965, Liechtenstein’s energy consumption has more than quadrupled. Per capita consumption more than doubled in the same period. The high levels of energy consumption per inhabitant can be ascribed inter alia to the large number of workers compared with inhabitants, for about one half of Liechtenstein’s workers live abroad. If the energy consumption of a country is correlated with its GDP (in millions at purchasing power parity), Liechtenstein has by far the lowest energy consumption compared with its neighbours.

In 2008, the degree of self-sufficiency in terms of overall energy supply fell from 8.4 % to 7.8 %, with that for electricity falling from 18.4 % to 17.7 %.

Residential construction/settlement areas

The economic upturn and accompanying increase in the population in recent years has greatly increased pressure on land as a commodity.

Between 1984 and 2008, settlement areas in the Principality of Liechtenstein increased by almost 34 %, or 1.41 % per year (cf. Switzerland: 1.08 %). In the same period, approximately 500 ha of agricultural land vanished – roughly equivalent to 1 000 football pitches. Settlement development can thus be described as continuous (or even unchecked).

Between 1984 and 2008, the area occupied by industry and manufacturing increased by over 30 %. The increase between 2002 and 2008, however, was only minimal (1.1 %). Land consumption for industrial and manufacturing use decreased greatly (from 3 ha (1984-1996) through 0.8 ha (1996-2002) to 0.3 ha (2002-2008) per year).

The built-up area has increased in the last 24 years by 44.5 %, or 265 ha. Between 1984 and 2008, the area occupied by arable land decreased annually by 8.2 ha, with by far most of that (15.8 ha per year) in the last six years.


What are the foreseen developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010

What are the foreseen main developments in coming decades that could be expected to contribute most to future environmental pressures?

Owing to the population-growth forecast, pressure on the limited land available will continue to increase, entailing the risk of loss of biodiversity.

The growth in the population will bring with it a rise in energy consumption. Great efforts are therefore currently under way to increase self-sufficiency by developing ’green’ energy sources (photovoltaics, geothermics, wind power and hydroelectric energy).

In order to accommodate the forecast growth in traffic of about 60 % by 2025, development of the public transport network will also be made a priority, with the aim of improving the modal split in favour of public transport and thereby reducing air pollution.





The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100