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Working in Zurich

Working in Zurich is an attractive prospect for many expats-to-be. Are you one of them? Read our guide to Zurich for an introduction to Switzerland’s economic growth engine, and find info on the regional economy, job hunting, social security, working conditions, and more.

Working in Zurich, you will be participating in one of the most competitive economies worldwide and in one of Switzerland’s strongest regional economies. Switzerland is a very affluent country, which has recovered well after the financial crisis of 2008/2009 and is holding out during the Eurozone crisis. In 2012, the Swiss GDP grew only by 1%, though, but the current prognosis predicts an economic recovery for the future.

However, the unemployment rate remains pretty low, with 2.9% or less in 2012. It grew slightly in early 2013, but seems to have stabilized around the 3% percent mark by now.

A Service-Oriented Economy

The Greater Zurich Area is often called Switzerland’s economic growth engine. This growth is strongly service-oriented. Nowadays, few of the highly skilled labor force are working in Zurich’s manufacturing sector, let alone in agriculture. In the canton, about 80% of all employees work in the service industry. In the city itself this percentage rises to an astounding 90%. The most important field of employment for those working in Zurich is, of course, finance.

Zurich’s financial sector is often considered synonymous with the professionalism, wealth, and discretion of Switzerland’s banks in general. Indeed, Zurich is among the top 10 financial markets around the globe, comparable to New York’s Wall Street or the City of London. In addition to the Swiss Stock Exchange, the city features such household names of finance and insurance as UBS, Crédit Suisse, Swiss Life, Swiss Re, the Zurich Insurance Group, and AXA Winterthur.

Alternatives to Finance

Even if you don’t plan on working in Zurich’s banking and insurance companies, the city and the canton offer plenty of potential employers for highly qualified expatriates. The Zurich Office for Economy and Labor is trying to strengthen other industries in the region. While finance will remain important, it may also lose in significance on a global level. Thus there is even greater interest in other fields to provide job opportunities for working in Zurich: for instance, tourism, health and life sciences, aerospace businesses, and the creative industries attract more and more people who consider working in Zurich.

Potential growth sectors like medical technology, micro and nano technology, and IT/CT profit from the presence of several renowned universities in the Greater Zurich Area. Research and development, as well as business intelligence, benefit from the graduates of Zurich University, the ETH Zurich, or the University of St Gallen. Today’s MBA student or newly minted PhD may become tomorrow’s entrepreneur working in Zurich’s technology park or in the Google engineering labs.

Apart from Google, various other multi-nationals have their Swiss or even European headquarters in the Zurich area. So, you may as well land a job in vehicle engineering (BMW, Fiat, Ford, Renault, Volvo), chemistry and pharmaceutics (Bayer, Pfizer), or business consulting (PWC).

Advice for Jobseekers in Zurich

Executives who’d like to start working in Zurich are often hired via headhunters or international recruitment agencies. However, as a well-qualified expat below the upper management level, you’ll probably have to do most of the work yourself. If you see yourself working for a global player, start by checking the company websites directly. Businesses of that size usually advertise all vacancies online and have a standardized recruitment process.

For networking purposes, the numerous foreign chambers of commerce in Zurich are a good place to start. Austria, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the UK, and the US are among Switzerland’s biggest trading partners. Nationals of these countries or people with professional experience in these markets may therefore have a good chance of working in Zurich. Last but not least, below you’ll find some job search engines that expats dreaming of working in Zurich should check out.

Online Resources


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Andrey Vasilyev

"I was able to connect with other expats in Zurich who enjoy cycling as much as I do and organize weekly rides."

Elin Gustavson

"At the first InterNations event that I attended, I met my wonderful partner. We now live together in a flat next to the Limmat."

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