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The Job Hunt: Finding Employment in Switzerland

Finding the right job in Switzerland may be a challenge if you are not prepared. For qualified expats, the job market is booming, but this is not the case in every field. The first step to finding work in Switzerland is analyzing the job market and finding which sector fits your skills.

 At a Glance:

  • At the moment, Switzerland is in need of qualified workers for their business, technology, and service sectors.
    • Many multi-national companies have offices in Switzerland, including Nestlé, Novartis, Roche, L’Oréal, Alliance, Boots, and the Zurich Insurance Group. All hire a great deal of qualified expats to fill job vacancies.
    • An employment contract outlines various obligations and rights that must be fulfilled by both the employer and the employee.

Finding Work in the Swiss Job Market

Switzerland’s unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the world, with only 3.2% of residents unemployed in October 2016. Although this number is small, foreigners make up about half of the unemployment population in Switzerland. This is because most foreigners work in low-skilled professions — usually the construction and hospitality sectors — with a higher unemployment risk. These sectors came under pressure when the Franc was no longer pegged to the Euro and increased in value, leaving companies unable to sustain a large workforce.

While the job market looks gloomy for unqualified workers, the situation is the opposite for skilled expats. In 2014 and 2015, over 45,000 new fulltime jobs were created in the public sector due to low taxation policies and the free movement of people act which allows EU citizens to live and work in Switzerland without a visa. These two factors led to many international companies establishing branches in Switzerland.

There is also an overwhelming increase in international companies relocating to the country that need qualified workers. This has caused companies to outsource foreign workers from around the world to fill vacancies.

Another thriving part of the Swiss job market is the service sector. Increased life expectancy has led to a surge in job opportunities in the healthcare sector. In the past ten years nursing homes, hospitals, universities, and childcare institutions have created about 65,000 new jobs.

As technology advances, Switzerland is focusing on creating a well-educated future workforce that can meet global demand. As a result, more teachers and professors are needed creating job openings in education and childcare.


Where Should You Look For Work in Switzerland?

Since Switzerland has a shortage of skilled workers, most expats tend to work in the following fields: engineering and technology, pharmaceuticals, banking and finance, IT and Business.

Most highly-skilled expats are employed by one of the many multi-national companies that operate in Switzerland. Since these companies operate globally, they tend to work in English and employ a lot of fluent and native English speakers.

If you have a political science or any other political studies background, you might like to apply for a position at the United Nations. Other non-governmental organizations based in Geneva are the World Trade Organization and the International Red Cross. If you are thinking of applying, be prepared for fierce competition — positions at these organizations are highly sought after.

Understanding Your Swiss Employment Contract

When an employer decides that they would like to hire you, they will issue an employment contract outlining the various obligations and rights to be fulfilled by both parties. You can see an example of a Swiss employment contract on the Swiss Confederation website

Tired of Your Job?

If you are not happy in your current job and would like to leave, you will need to write an official termination notice letter including:

  • the name and address of both the employee and employer;
  • the specific title of the contract that is being terminated;
  • the last date of employment;
  • signature of the employee.

Make sure that you respect the notice period stated in your contract, and that your employer receives your termination notice — at the latest — on the last working day of the month. You will need to hand in your notice in writing either by registered post or in person. If you decide to hand in your notice in person, you should ask for a signature of acknowledgement. This is the only way that you can legally prove that your employer had knowledge of you leaving.  

Alternative Options: Be Your Own Boss

If you are preforming well, you will most likely not have to worry about losing your job in Switzerland. As previously mentioned, there is currently a shortage of skilled workers so unless the company is having serious financial problems, your job should be secure. Even then, businesses try to give their employees reduced hours until the issue is resolved.

If you do lose your job, there are a lot of freelance work options available. You will need to set up a sole proprietorship to make sure that your income is legally recognized by the state. You will also need to have proof of social insurance to become self-employed.

If you decide to be self-employed and are an EU/EFTA citizen, you are allowed to stay and work for yourself in Switzerland as long as you are eligible for a B or C classified residence permit. Find out more about the different visa types in our article.

If you are from a third country (not EU/EFTA) you will need to have a C Residence Permit, or be married to a Swiss citizen. Anyone that does not have a C-permit will need to prove that their business will have a sustainable and positive effect on the Swiss economy. In order to do this, you will have to craft a detailed business plan and submit it to your canton authorities for approval. If you are approved, you will be granted an L-permit — usually valid for twelve months. After this short-term permit, you may have the chance to extend it for a longer period of time if your business is performing well.