Which country has the simplest lifestyle
"By comparison, we lead a simple lifestyle"
Your Highness, what is your relationship with money?
Hereditary Prince Alois from and to Liechtenstein: It is much easier when you have enough money. But money does not make you happy and it can be gone again quickly.
That's why I prefer to orient myself towards permanent things.
What are permanent things to you?
One should not orient oneself on material things, but on lasting values. In my opinion, this is the only way to have a really happy life. Belief in the afterlife can be a gift in this regard.
Do you not have the feeling that due to the profit maximization phase in which we have been since the Second World War, many orientations of life have primarily focused on financial prosperity and the other values in Liechtenstein have suffered?
Not only in Liechtenstein, but also in the whole of Western Europe, the importance of values, especially traditional values, and also of religious communities has decreased. Sometimes new values are searched for. Today, topics such as nutrition and the environment have sometimes even become a substitute religion. But these are not values that give sustainable security. For this reason, there is a certain lack of orientation in society.
Have you ever had money problems?
Fortunately, I never had major financial worries. However, my parents made my siblings and me aware that the money has to be earned first, that it can be gone quickly and that it must therefore be handled carefully.
So you would describe yourself as a thrifty person?
I would not say that I am overly frugal, but my family and I lead a rather simple lifestyle in our private lives compared to our financial means.
You have been Head of State of the Principality of Liechtenstein since 2004. Do you actually receive a monthly wage for this? Or how do you have to imagine this?
No. The prince or his deputy do not receive a salary from the state. On the contrary. The Princely House assumes all the costs associated with the role of the Head of State, such as additional personnel costs, the cost of travel, receptions, official meals, etc. Fortunately, the princely fortune is now large enough again that these costs can be derived from its income as well as the private expenses of the prince and me can be borne without any problems.
But is there a wage scheme or a wage principle within the princely family? Is it regulated like in a company?
No, there is no fixed salary in this sense. A part of the property of the Princely House was used centuries ago to enable the respective Prince to carry out his duties with it. These assets are now incorporated into foundations and accordingly the Prince, as the main beneficiary, can bear these costs from the income from these assets.
Salary issues and especially bonus payments for managers are a much discussed topic. What is a fair wage for you?
In my opinion, there is no more just wage than there is - at least on earth - complete justice. How is the situation to be assessed, for example, if two work colleagues deliver the same work result, but one had to work less hard than the other? Should he therefore receive less wages or the same wages? Depending on the point of view, one person will perceive this as just and the other as unjust. In my opinion, one should pay a decent wage according to the circumstances. However, depending on the industry and economic situation, companies can afford very different wage levels.
In connection with the wage differences between women and men, the demand for more wage transparency arises again and again. In Germany there has even been a corresponding law since this year. What do you think of wage transparency?
Through a law, we may cause more bureaucracy costs than we achieve in terms of actual wage transparency and ultimately a reduction in wage differentials. In addition, wage differences between women and men are less and less based on conscious discrimination against women, but rather on the fact that a poor work-life balance, especially for women, has an unfavorable effect on their wage development and career opportunities. To the best of my knowledge, this is confirmed by nearly equal wages between women and men in the pre-family period. I therefore think it is more expedient to make progress in reconciling family and work.
Do you understand that in Liechtenstein, despite the general prosperity, more and more people feel left behind?
My impression is that although we had a much lower level of prosperity in earlier times, the prosperity was more or less evenly distributed over the population. With the increasing upswing after the Second World War, greater differences certainly emerged, but because everyone was better for the first time, these differences were not perceived as such at first. When I was at school, for example, branded clothes weren't even an issue and the question of whether you need to have the very latest cell phone wasn't even an issue. That has changed massively in the last few years. Today there is pressure to go along with it. In addition, the sharp rise in health insurance premiums in recent years has led to additional burdens, especially for those on lower incomes. That's why I can understand that more and more people in Liechtenstein feel left behind. Although, of course, one has to say that practically everyone is much better off than in earlier times. We all have a much higher standard of living today.
Inquiries to private aid organizations are increasing from year to year. The health insurance premiums are considered a major burden for the lower income brackets. This is primarily about the increased deductibles and deductibles. In your opinion, where should we start so that this development does not continue?
The reform of the Health Insurance Act has significantly reduced the rise in health insurance premiums. In addition, the health insurance premiums in Liechtenstein are significantly lower than in Switzerland. We have to assume, however, that the costs in the health sector will continue to rise sharply. That is why we must continue to think over the next few years as to how we can use the financial resources in this area even more efficiently and in a more targeted manner through further reforms. This is the only way we can keep the costs within reasonable limits and at the same time use sufficient funds where they are really needed. An important area of reform in this context would be care financing.
However, additional insurance would result in additional expenses being incurred by the citizens. In your opinion, where should one start so that the lower incomes are not additionally burdened?
If someone is unable to pay enough into long-term care insurance, the state should step in with tax revenues and buy these people into long-term care insurance. In the case of a care capital solution, the state should also support the care of those people who do not have care capital from tax revenues.
Your wife's foundation, which also runs the advice center schwanger.li, keeps finding that money is the greatest concern of parents-to-be. One is afraid that one cannot afford a child. Isn't this a tragic development in a rich country like Liechtenstein?
In my opinion, these fears have to be viewed in a differentiated manner. In contrast to most other counseling centers, the counseling center had the additional task of providing financial support to women in conflict during pregnancy in order to give them prospects for a life with the child in this regard as well. Contrary to the initial expectations, very little money had to be invested in this area. As far as I know, this is mainly due to the fact that the state actually has a good financial network, but parents often do not know which state benefits they can access. But if you accompany them and show them what options there are, then often only bridging funding is necessary until the relevant application is submitted. So it is at least partly more of a problem of ignorance.
A recently published study by the Sophie von Liechtenstein Foundation shows that it would be important if children, at least in their first year of life, were not cared for outside of the family. But many parents have no other choice because they are financially dependent on two incomes. How should this problem be solved?
Not all married couples where both partners work are actually dependent on two incomes. But there are an increasing number of whom it is a problem if a salary is lost. As this study has shown, it is usually best for the development of the child if the parents - at least in the first year of life - look after their child themselves. Parents who are really dependent on two salaries should be financially supported by the state to make this possible.
But would you only do it in this case?
If we have more money at our disposal, it would be more advantageous, for reasons of education and health policy, to make it even more attractive for as many parents as possible to take care of their children in the first few months. However, the state will not be able to compensate for all the financial losses resulting from the children. Children are now associated with limitations, not only financially but also in terms of time. At the same time, however, children are a great asset. This should be brought back into the consciousness of the potential parents more strongly. However, many more steps are needed to improve the compatibility of family and work, which politicians can only successfully implement in good cooperation with companies. We need more part-time offers, measures to make it easier to return to work and, in general, a corporate culture that places great value on a good work-life balance.
Today, however, the economy does not make it very easy for men in particular to bring about such a care situation. If a man wants to share the care work with his wife and wants to reduce his workload accordingly, then he bites granite in many companies. Especially if it is a managerial position.
The economy must be aware that this is also an investment in the future. To this end, the state should work with thought leaders in the economy to raise awareness. Today women are excellently trained and companies are investing a lot in their training these days. If the companies fail to keep the women, they suffer corresponding losses. We also know that mixed teams, especially at management level, are usually more successful. To do this, however, it would be important that not only women can work part-time, but also men up to management levels. Experience has shown that, interestingly, qualified women usually only make use of part-time opportunities when the men do so, because otherwise they fear career disadvantages compared to men.
So far there have not been any major public discussions, despite the clear results of the expertise of the Sophie von Liechtenstein Foundation. How was the feedback on the publication on your side? Do you have any signals from politics or business that this issue is being actively addressed?
I've had a lot of feedback. Even when I address the topic from my side, I notice that many in politics and business are aware of this problem. In addition, the government's family survey showed that most parents would like to look after their children themselves for the first few years. Companies are increasingly aware that one of the most important criteria when choosing an employer today is a good work-life balance or the so-called work-life balance. The challenge, which is why politics and the economy are so cautious, is the question of financing. In addition, smaller companies in particular find it more difficult to offer flexible part-time offers, although the Chamber of Commerce companies in particular employ a relatively large number of them on a part-time basis.
Wouldn't it be easiest to extend maternity leave to one year? This would be the fastest way to make a change.
In my opinion, an extension of the maternity leave to one year would be welcome. The only question is to what extent this extension will be paid for. A more flexible drawing of funds from the family equalization fund or child allowances could possibly contribute to this. However, it is questionable whether the funds available for this are perceived as sufficient. Business has concerns about financing through changes in taxation. So we probably have to save a little in other places in order to be able to make a difference on maternity leave. However, this is again not easy to achieve politically.
It is not only people with a low income that are finding it increasingly difficult to cope with the high cost of living in Liechtenstein. The so-called “medium-sized companies” also have more and more problems. If a young family wants to build a house for 750,000 francs on their own property, they need a gross household income of more than 100,000 francs to get a mortgage from the bank. And a family with a gross income of 6,000 francs in rent can hardly save any reserves. Aren't we in danger of having a huge problem here?
I also see this with some concern. I hope that a positive development in rental prices can be achieved through additional housing offers. However, we should also deal with this issue as part of comprehensive spatial planning and examine the extent to which better spatial planning regulations cannot have positive effects on the prices of land and, indirectly, also on rents.
If you mention the keyword spatial planning, one has to admit that nothing has changed in this regard in Liechtenstein in the last few decades. Is the pressure just not big enough?
I have the impression that different sides would like to tackle the topic and that things are in motion. In my opinion, we should address the spatial planning issue comprehensively, also with regard to traffic, attractive living space including the design of the Rhine, sports facilities, etc. It is important that we prepare and discuss this topic with all its connections. This is certainly a long process, in which you have to enter into a broad dialogue with the population. I would therefore very much appreciate it if this starts in the next few months.
As is well known, you are not a proponent of the watering can principle. In which areas do you see redistribution approaches so that the money really arrives where it is urgently needed?
The most precise redistribution succeeds from the tax revenues to those people who have been determined on the basis of a needs test that they need state support. The problem with redistribution through social security is that this type of redistribution is less precise because more funds are redistributed from all incomes to everyone, including those who do not need it. In the area of old-age provision in particular, there is usually an unfair redistribution between the generations in the social insurance sector. H. to a favor of the older generations at the expense of the younger generations. With the state contributions to the AHV, we also have the problem that, due to the high proportion of cross-border commuters, we distribute a considerable proportion of the local population's tax money to cross-border commuters abroad. (sap)
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