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Working in Switzerland

Your Guide on Jobs and Finding Work in Switzerland

Working in Switzerland is a good way to save money. Salaries are high and taxes are low. However, competition for jobs is also high, so if you want to access the Swiss cash cow, get some tips on how to land the right job and what to expect.

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Learning how to find a job in Switzerland is both easy and difficult. On one hand, the Swiss job market readily welcomes foreigners, especially in senior management level positions. However, competition for positions is stiff. In such a small country with a reputation for a high quality of life, expats from around the globe flock to call Switzerland home, leaving few job vacancies. This coupled with the fact that Switzerland requires companies to adequately defend their reasoning for hiring a foreigner over a Swiss native, and you have a job hunt that will feel like a job in itself.

If you are lucky enough to land yourself a job in Switzerland, you can rest easy in the fact that the average Swiss salary is one of the highest in Europe, but so is the amount of work you are expected to put in. Switzerland’s work culture is determined and steadfast. Working days are Monday to Friday and it is common for employees to clock in 45–48 hours per week.

Although finding a job in Switzerland is tough and the hours may seem long, do not let this dissuade you. A significant portion of Switzerland’s workforce is made up for foreign employees, and Switzerland has many laws in place to protect worker rights. Use this guide to learn about what it is like to work in Switzerland, including information on social security, maternity benefits, and working as a self-employed person.

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How to Get a Job in Switzerland

If you are wondering how to get a job in Switzerland as a foreigner, you are not alone. Over one-fifth of Switzerland’s full-time employment market is made of foreign workers. In addition to its high salaries, Switzerland is also known for excellent worker rights, such as mandated limits for how much employees can work and overtime that is paid at 125% the normal wage.

How to Apply for a Job in Switzerland

Because competition for work is so stiff in Switzerland, it is important to make yourself standout as an applicant. The typical requirements for working in Switzerland are a university degree and several years of work experience. To apply for a job, you will need to submit the following items:

  • CV: This can be up to three pages long. As a university degree is required for obtaining a work permit, your CV should list all of your educational qualifications as well as your work experience. You should include references, a professional headshot, and a personal statement at the beginning of the CV.
  • Cover letter: Standard one-page cover letter explaining why you are the best candidate for the job. Work experience is important in Switzerland, so it would be a benefit to highlight that.
  • Educational degrees: In addition to a university degree being required for a Swiss work permit, you may also be asked to present the original degrees to your Swiss employer. It is best to arrive in the country with your degrees as well as notarized copies.

The majority of foreigners working in Switzerland hold management and senior level positions. This means that the eligibility for working in Switzerland as a foreigner is high. Some expats may wish to work with a recruiter or job agency to help them in their search.

Language Requirements for Swiss Jobs

Switzerland is a country with four national languages: German, Italian, French, and Romansh. Depending on the location and job, employment vacancies can be posted in any one of those four languages. Your CV and cover letter should be submitted in the language in which the job you are applying for is advertised. Even when filling out the application, unless you are asked to use English, it is a good idea to fill out the form in the language in which the application is written.

If you need help translating your documents, or want to prep your language skills for your move, contact InterNations GO!

Tips to Land a Job in Switzerland as a Foreigner

One of the best ways to get a job in Switzerland as a foreigner is to look online. Many companies advertise job vacancies through online platforms as well as their own company websites. It is also not uncommon in Switzerland to send letters of interest even if there are no current openings.

Interview Tips

Switzerland is all about being qualified and prepared; expectations that extend even to the interview process. Before you go in for your interview, be sure to research the company you are applying for. Having some basic knowledge of their mission and work culture will show them the type of prepared, hard-working employee you will be. Your dress for the interview should also be very professional and leaning towards muted colors.

Networking Tips

Networking is a useful method to landing a job in Switzerland. You will find plenty of networking events in all of the major cities and even social groups, such as InterNations, that are focused on making professional connections.

When networking in Switzerland, be sure not to be too pushy. Switzerland is a more reserved culture and it can put people off if you are too aggressive when trying to establish a professional connection. And just as with the interview process: when attending a networking event, dress professionally and lean towards muted colors and business casual.

Job Opportunities in Switzerland for Foreigners

Because Switzerland is such a popular relocation destination for expats, only highly skilled workers have the best chances for finding employment. The majority of foreigners working in Switzerland are in upper management and senior level positions.

These are the industries where foreigners can find the greatest job opportunities:

  • engineering
  • IT
  • hospitality industry
  • financial services
  • pharmaceuticals

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Minimum Wage and Average Salary

According to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Switzerland has the second highest wage in Europe, coming just after Luxembourg. However, it may surprise most expats to learn that Switzerland does not have a legally mandated minimum wage. In 2014, a bill was put forth to create a national minimum wage of 22 CHF (22 USD) per hour, but it was struck down. Those who opposed the bill voiced concern for employers. Those in favor argued that the average salary of Swiss workers was already higher than the proposed amount.

Although estimates vary depending on job sector, the national average annual salary is about 114,000 CHF (116,050 USD) per year, or 9,500 CHF (9,670 USD) per month. Workers will be happy to know that the average annual salary has continued to rise since 2016, with a yearly raise of about 2—4%. The average minimum wage is about 55 CHF (55 USD) per hour.

What is a Good Salary in Switzerland?

A good salary in Switzerland is dependent on where you live. Swiss salaries are high, but so is the cost of living. When negotiating a job offer, be sure to look into the housing and utilities cost of the area where you will move.

The four most expensive cities to live in in Switzerland are Bern, Basel, Geneva, and Zurich. Below are the salary estimates that single expats and families of four will need to live in each city.

Single Expat Living in a One-Bedroom Apartment in the City Center
Bern 2,310 CHF 2,360 USD
Basel 2,580 CHF 2,630 USD
Geneva 3,290 CHF 3,360 USD
Zurich 3,300 CHF 3,370 USD

 

Family of Four Living in a Three-Bedroom Apartment in the City Center
Bern 6,780 CHF 6,930 USD
Basel 8,040 CHF 8,210 USD
Geneva 8,620 CHF 8,800 USD
Zurich 8,920 CHF 9,110 USD

 

The Most In-Demand Jobs and How Much They Pay

Due to the increase of technology use and an aging workforce, some experts believe Switzerland could face a worker shortage of about half a million by 2030. Some areas of work, especially those with highly skilled workers, are already feeling the employment crunch.

While this shortage poses a problem for the Swiss workforce, expats specializing in these job sectors may have more luck finding employment.

Below are some of the most in-demand jobs in Switzerland and how much they pay per month.

Job Position Salary CHF Salary USD
Top management and top public service 15,000 15,320
Doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and pharmacists 10,770—20,000 11,000—20,400
Auditors and tax advisors 10,000 10,200
Legal 9,000 9,190
Engineers 8,420 8,600
IT/software engineer 7,730 7,890
Skilled technicians 7,700 7,800
Teachers 7,280 7,400

Self-Employment

Self-employment in Switzerland is not as easy as it is in some countries, but it is also not impossible. Nearly 12% of Switzerland’s workforce is self-employed. One of the greatest hurtles of self-employment in Switzerland is getting both a work permit and permission to be self-employed from the federal government and cantonal authorities. Once you have these, you are allowed to freely operate as your own business in Switzerland. 

How to be Self-Employed in Switzerland

To be self-employed in Switzerland, you must prove that you have already been successfully self-employed for some time before starting your business here. This means you are required to present past invoices demonstrating your ability to run your business, receive clients, and generate an income. You will also need to register your company, which can be done online through EasyGov. EasyGov also helps self-employed workers set-up insurance, taxes, etc.

Finding the exact sector where top self-employed jobs in Switzerland are is difficult because the variety of opportunities is huge. However, Switzerland is currently facing a shortage of local engineers and skilled workers in technology, consulting, banking, insurance and IT. Self-employed foreigners wanting to move to Switzerland may find the most luck in these areas of work.

As a self-employed worker, you can work from a co-working space or you can rent your own personal office. Proving where you will operate your business from is not always a requirement of being self-employed in Switzerland, but you should be prepared just in case your cantonal authorities ask for an official business address.

Switzerland is an expensive, competitive country, and being self-employed there may feel like a risk. However, if you present a business plan that is solid enough to be approved for a work permit, then that means the Swiss authorities believe you have adequate means to make a decent living in their country.

Note that knowledge of the local language is crucial to establish contacts, business connections, and contributing to the Swiss business culture. English is spoken widely throughout the country, but you will still find colleagues and peers who prefer to converse in Italian, German, or French. If you are interested in enrolling in language courses to better your work opportunities, contact InterNations GO!

Benefits and Drawbacks of Self-Employment in Switzerland

While a benefit of being self-employed in Switzerland is the freedom to be your own boss, a pitfall is that you also lose many of the benefits that are included with being a Swiss worker. For example, as a self-employed worker you will not have the safety net of unemployment insurance. Additionally, you cannot benefit from typical company perks such as paid sick or vacation leave.

As a self-employed worker, you are also responsible for paying into your own social security, as well as that of any of your employees. Any legal actions are also on you.

However, one benefit that self-employed women still enjoy is paid maternity leave. The amount you get will be based on your income.

Business Culture

While the Swiss business culture is largely conservative and formal, differences may arise depending on if your company is German, French, or Italian influenced. On the whole, German-centric companies are more traditional and rigid with workplace culture and dress code, whereas Italian and French companies are more laidback.

Swiss Working Culture

The Swiss are serious workers. This means that business meetings tend to start on time and focus on the task at hand. There may be a few minutes of general discussion, but, overall, everyone concentrates on completing tasks in a timely and efficient manner. You should also be fully prepared for every meeting or business assignment, with supplementary materials at the ready.

In addition to traditional and conservative, Swiss work culture can also be described as reserved and unpretentious. When working in Switzerland, try to avoid being too dramatic or eccentric. When at work, or at a work event, do not get too personal in conversation. Mixing your personal life and work life is not common in Switzerland, and it can be viewed as highly unprofessional.

Important to Remember
  • Language: English is widely spoken in Swiss business culture, but it is important to learn the primary language of your canton as local businesses are more likely to prefer German, Italian, or French.
  • Punctuality: Being on-time is very important in Swiss business culture. To be late is seen as both disrespectful and unprofessional. Expect meetings and events to start exactly on time. Arrive early and confirm appointments.
  • Hierarchy: Workers in Switzerland expect respect based on their rank and educational achievements. Be sure address business colleagues formally unless instructed otherwise.
  • Gifts: It is uncommon to present gifts in the Swiss business world. However, if you are invited to a colleague or business partner’s home it is polite to bring something small like flowers, wine, or chocolate.
  • Greetings: It is expected to shake hands when meeting people for the first time. It is not common to hug or kiss on the cheeks.

Social Security and Benefits

Every expat living and working in Switzerland will need a Swiss social security number. Like other social security programs, social security in Switzerland is money intended to cover the cost of living for people after retirement or in the case that they are widowed or orphaned. Workers in Switzerland automatically start paying into the social security scheme. Employers pay half of the scheme and the other half is deducted automatically from employees’ paychecks. The amount paid is based on the employee’s salary.

Social security is divided into three pillars with the first pillar being mandatory:

  1. First pillar: This pillar is a state pension plan that consists of various schemes meant to help residents during retirement, disability, or in the case of being widowed or orphaned.
  2. Second pillar: This pillar is mandatory for all employees except self-employed workers. Self-employed can opt into the second pillar if they choose. This pillar primarily covers accident insurance and unemployment.
  3. Third pillar: This pillar is optional and can be considered an added retirement account.

Keep in mind, there is no national social security scheme in Switzerland. Instead, social security is dealt with between the federal and cantonal levels, meaning that there may be slight differences based on where you live in Switzerland.

Feeling confused about social security as it pertains to your canton? Contact InterNations GO! and let our experts handle it for you.

What is a Social Security Number in Switzerland?

The Switzerland social security number is more commonly referred to as the AHV number or AHV card. AHV stands for Alters- und Hinterlassenenversicherung: Old-Age and Survivors’ Insurance. It is a nation-wide insurance fund that Swiss workers pay into. This money collects overtime and eventually serves as the worker’s retirement fund.

Applying for a Social Security Number in Switzerland

It is mandatory to have a social security number in Switzerland. A foreigner can get a social security number through the cantonal compensation funds in the canton where they live. Because social security is handled at both a federal and cantonal level, how to get your social security number in Switzerland varies by canton to canton. 

Social Security Benefits in Switzerland

The benefits for having a social security card in Switzerland include insurance for yourself and your family. This insurance includes financial protection in the case of injury, major sickness, death, unemployment, or other unforeseen circumstances. As social security also contributes to a pension scheme, this allows residents build up a financial cushion that will pay for their living expenses upon retirement.

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Maternity and Paternity Leave

Whether you are a self-employed worker or an employee with a Swiss company, every woman is able to benefit from maternity leave in Switzerland. There are only three qualifications required to claim maternity leave:

  • You must have had social security for nine months prior to the baby being born.
  • You must have worked for five months of your pregnancy.
  • You must be employed or self-employed at the time of the birth.

How Long is Maternity Leave in Switzerland?

Maternity leave begins the day the child is born and lasts for 14 weeks (98 days). Both full-time and part-time workers are entitled to the leave.

Maternity Benefits in Switzerland

During their leave, mothers are paid 80% of their wage, but this cannot be more than 196 CHF (200 USD) per day.

Paternity Leave and Benefits

Unlike maternity leave, there is no law mandating paternity leave. However, private sector companies are obligated to allow mothers and fathers a certain number of days or hours for “family events.” Fathers can use these allotments in lieu of paternity leave. Public sector companies are starting to introduce paternity leave into their employee packages, but it is not a requirement.

 

Do you want to relocate? If you have never moved abroad, the process will be overwhelming, and if you have, you know the burden that lies ahead. Whatever stage you are at, InterNations GO! can help you with a complete set of relocation services, such as home finding, school search, visa solutions, and even pet relocation. Our expert expat team is ready to get your relocation going, so why not jump-start your move abroad and contact us today? Best to start early!

Updated on: September 23, 2019

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