Liechtenstein, a hereditary constitutional monarchy, is a small country covering only 62 square miles and situated in the Alps Mountains between Switzerland and Austria. It has a population of 26,680 (1985), and an annual population growth rate of 1.2%. The population is predominantly German, and 82.7% of the inhabitants are Roman Catholic. German is the official language. The literacy rate is 100%, and school is compulsory for 9 years. The infant mortality rate is 6.3/1000 live births, and life expectancy is 65 years for men and 74 years for women. The Imperial Principality of Liechtenstein was created in 1719 when the House of Liechtenstein purchased the territory from the Holy Roman Empire. Liechtenstein was part of the Germany confederacy until 1866, but it has been an independent country since 1815. Following World War I, Liechtenstein signed a series of treaties with Switzerland. These treaties remain in effect and provide for 1) a customs union and other forms of economic cooperation and integration between the 2 countries; 2) the use of Swiss currency in Liechtenstein; and 3) the assumption by Switzerland of Liechtenstein's custom controls, consular matters, and routine diplomatic relations. In 1921, the country adopted a hereditary constitutional monarchy type of government. The prince, or head of the House of Liechtenstein, is the chief of state. There is an elected unicameral legislative body, the Diet; however, all legislation must be approved by the prince, and the prince has the power to dissolve the Diet. Executive authority resides in a 5-member cabinet chaired by the deputy head of state, who represents the majority party. All 5 members of the cabinet are nominated by the Diet but appointed by the prince. There are 2 major political parties, and both support the monarchy. Liechtenstein has a free market system and is a highly industrialized nation. It has a skilled labor force, but, in addition, employs more than 8000 workers from surrounding countries. Due to Liechtenstein's liberal tax and banking secrecy policies, many international companies have headquarters in the country. 54.5% of the work force is engaged in industry, trade, and building. Another 41.6% are engaged in services, and 4% are in agriculture, fishing, and forestry. Separate economic data is unavailable for Liechentinstein as this information is integrated with Swiss economic information. Estimated per capita gross national product is $16,900. Liechtenstein is not a member of the UN, but it is a member of serveral UN agencies. It is also a member of the Council of Europe, the European Free Trade Association, and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. Its routine foreign affairs are conducted through Switzerland, and Liechtenstein's only diplomatic mission is in Bern, Switzerland.
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