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Working Conditions in Zurich

Working in Zurich is an attractive prospect for many expats-to-be. Maybe you are one of them? Read our guide to Zurich for an introduction to Zurich’s economy and find information on job hunting, social security, working conditions, and more.

Wages: You Get What You Work For

Most employees in Zurich enjoy fairly good working conditions. There is no national minimum wage in Switzerland, although the pay in some fields of employment is regulated by collective agreements (Gesamtarbeitsvertrag or GAV). Nonetheless, the majority of the working population has a higher salary than in other European countries.

In 2016, the median gross salary across Switzerland was 6,500 CHF per month. Especially in Zurich’s finance industry, salaries will probably be higher. However, the generous wages are also very much needed, as Zurich is one of the most expensive regions in the entire country. If your salary is negotiable, you should take this into account. If you want to know what Swiss people in similar jobs make, have a look at this salary calculator maintained by the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (available in French, German, and Italian).

From your gross salary, about seven percent are directly deducted to pay for social security contributions (not including health insurance), with your employer matching your contributions. You will be taxed on the remaining income. While your actual tax rate depends on your respective circumstances (e.g. your total income or whether you are raising children), you can assume as a rule of thumb that at least ten percent of your salary will go to the Swiss tax office. The remaining sum is your monthly household budget for living expenses, such as health insurance, medical costs, rent, transportation, food, etc.

Working Hours and Annual Leave

The legal maximum of working hours per week varies slightly according to the field of employment. For most employees, though, it is 45 hours. In 2016, people working in Switzerland put in an average of 41.17 hours of work every week. Contracts with 42 or 42.5 hours per week are common.

As far as paid leave is concerned, you are entitled to take 20 days off every year. In 2012, Switzerland’s trade unions organized a referendum to raise this minimum annual leave to six weeks — the proposal failed spectacularly, with the Swiss living up to their reputation as an extremely industrious people. So, when you start working in Zurich, your contract is likely to stipulate four weeks of paid leave per year.

In fields of employment that are covered by a collective agreement (GAV), older employees or those who have been with the same company for a very long time often get five days more. In addition to your regular leave, you can take all national and regional holidays off, provided they don’t coincide with the weekend anyway. In the canton of Zurich, these are up to ten  paid public holidays per year, plus a few days with reduced hours.

Unemployed: What Now?

If you should be laid off during your time as an expat in Zurich, you may be entitled to unemployment benefits. Everyone who has paid social insurance contributions for at least twelve months within the last two years receives financial benefits under certain conditions. Among other things, you must not have given notice yourself without due reason, and you must prove that you are actively looking for work.

If you fulfill the legal requirements, you will get 70 to 80 percent of your income for at least eight months. The exact sum as well as the duration of those benefits depend on various factors, e.g. your family situation and the length of your previous employment. In case that you should become unemployed after relocating to Zurich, please get in touch with the regionales Arbeitsvermittlungszentrum (RAV — regional job center) as soon as possible.

If your residence permit is due for renewal while you are between jobs, this may become a problem. In this situation, you have no legal right to a renewed permit. However, as long as you meet the legal requirements for unemployment benefits or have proof of sufficient financial resources, your permit may still be renewed for another year. Make sure to contact the Zurich Migration Office well in advance and discuss your case to avoid any unpleasant surprises.

For more information on unemployment benefits in Switzerland, please refer to our respective in-depth article.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete.

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