Swiss are generally known for honesty and for rarely engaging in deliberate petty theft. But is that notion correct?
To find out, moneyland.ch commissioned an anonymous online survey of the theft habits of 1500 adult residents of German-speaking and French-speaking Switzerland. The survey was conducted by Swiss market research institute Ipsos on behalf of moneyland.ch. Participants were asked how often they deliberately stole during their adult lives.
The survey was broken down into petty theft in these situations and locations: at restaurants, in hotels, at Migros, at Coop, at self-service checkouts, when using public transportation, at libraries, in the workplace, at the post office, at pharmacies, in clothing stores, in electronics stores and at other stores.
Surprisingly high theft rates
Switzerland has a relatively low theft rate – in part due to its high overall standard of living. “But only around half of survey participants (51%) state that they have never stolen as adults,” says moneyland.ch CEO Benjamin Manz.
Theft by residents of Switzerland is most common among public transportation users (34% of participants stated that they have used transportation without a ticket at least once), in the workplace (18% have stolen in their workplace), at restaurants and hotels (13% of participants have deliberately skirted payment), at Migros (12%) and at Coop (11%).
Theft rates are notably higher among young adults
One statistic leaves no room for doubt: “The older the age group, the lower the theft rate,” states Benjamin Manz. 60% of adults aged 50 to 74 years old stated that they have never stolen or deliberately avoided paying in their adult lives, compared to 49% of adults aged 26 to 49 years old. Only 31% of adults aged 18 to 25 years old stated that they have not stolen as adults.
“The differences between generations are major. It is obvious that young adults are less averse to theft than their elderly counterparts,” says Manz.
The generation gap is evident across all scenarios. 48% of young adults admit to having used public transportation without valid tickets at least once, compared to 36% of adults between the ages of 26 to 49 and 26% of adults aged 50 to 74 years old. 10% of young adults state that they have repeatedly used public transportation without paying, compared to 5% among in the middle age group and just 2% in the highest age group.
The youngest age group (18 to 25 years old) shows high theft rates in all categories: 27% have stolen in their workplace at least once in their adult lives, 23% have deliberately not paid or stolen at restaurants, 21% have stolen from Migros stores, 20% have stolen from Hotels, 18% have stolen from Coop stores, 16% have deliberately not paid for goods when using self-service checkouts, 12% have stolen from kiosks and 9% have stolen from clothing stores.
Wealth is not a differentiator
One could be forgiven for thinking that wealthier individuals are less likely to steal than poorer individuals. However, the survey indicates otherwise. For example, the rate of theft from restaurants is highest among individuals categorized as wealthy (those with personal wealth of between 300,000 and 500,000 Swiss francs). 21% of wealthy individuals admit to having deliberately not paid at restaurants.
Individuals with personal wealth of between 100,000 and 300,000 francs are the most likely to use public transportation without paying for it (40% of participants in this category admitted to doing so), followed by millionaires (39%). By comparison, a lower 35% of individuals with wealth between 20,000 and 50,000 francs have used public transportation without valid tickets.
Men steal more frequently than women
The survey seems to confirm the cliche that women steal less frequently, on average, than men. 54% of women who participated in the survey stated that they have never deliberately stolen, compared to 48% of men. Men showed higher theft rates across all categories.
For example, 38% of men admit to having used public transportation without paying at least once in their adult lives – compared to just 30% of women. 20% of men admit to having stolen at their workplace, compared to just 16% of women. 16% of men admit to having deliberately not paid for services received from restaurants, compared to just 11% of women.
Differences between French-speaking and German-speaking Switzerland
53% of participants in French-speaking Switzerland stated that they have never deliberately stolen, compared to just 50% of participants in German-speaking Switzerland.
The categories in which the biggest differences are found are hotels (15% of German-speaking Swiss have deliberately not paid at least once, compared to 9% of French-speaking Swiss) and the workplace (20% of German-speaking Swiss have stolen at their workplaces, compared to 13% of French-speaking Swiss).
Rural residents are more honest than urban dwellers
55% of particpants who live in rural areas state that they have never stolen as adults, compared to 49% of urban dwellers. While 10% of rural participants admitted to deliberately not paying at restaurants and 9% at hotels, rates are much higher among urban dwellers, at 15%. The theft habits of urban and rural dwellers also differ between retailers: 8% of rural dwellers admitted to stealing from Migros and 5% admitted to stealing from Coop, while 14% of urban dwellers admitted to stealing from Migros and 13% admitted to stealing from Coop. Rural dwellers are also less likely to use public transportation without paying than their urban counterparts: 28% of rural dwellers have deliberately used public transportation without valid tickets, compared to 36% of urban dwellers.
Riding the rails is a popular Swiss pastime
Public transportation is the category in which residents of Switzerland are most likely to skirt payment for services provided. One third (34%) of participants admitted to having deliberately used public transportation without paying for it. A possible reason for this category topping the list is the fact that penalties are less severe than those associated with other forms of theft, and valid excuses for riding without a ticket are easier to come by.
Around 10% of survey participants admit to having deliberately ridden without a ticket at least once in their adult lives. 7% admitted to having done this twice, 12% have done it more than twice and 5% state that they have frequently ridden without a ticket.
Theft from restaurants and hotels
Theft from restaurants and hotels is also common. 13% of participants admitted to either deliberately not paid for services received or to stealing property. Around 7% of participants admitted to deliberately not paying at restaurants once in their adult lives. 3% stated that they have done this twice, 2% have done it more than twice and 1% admitted to having done this frequently. Similar theft rates are evident in the hotel category: 7% of participants have deliberately not paid once in their adult lives, 2% have done this twice, 3% more than twice and 1% have done it frequently.
Theft from shops
Shoplifting rates are relatively high among residents of Switzerland. 12% of participants admit to having stolen from Migros stores at least once (1% admitted to doing this frequently). 11% admitted to stealing from Coop stores (1% frequently). 7% have stolen from kiosks, 6% have stolen from clothing stores and 5% have stolen from electronics stores. 8% of participants admitted to having deliberately not paid for items at self-service checkouts, with 1% stating that they have done this frequently. Because only a limited number of participants use self-service checkouts, the actual theft rates among regular self-service-checkout users is higher in relation to those of other categories than the rates indicate.