How to find permanent jobs in switzerland

Many foreigners – especially highly skilled – successfully find work in Switzerland, with almost half of all executive jobs in Switzerland filled by foreigners. Switzerland is a very appealing place to come and work: average Swiss salaries, working conditions and Switzerland’s standard of living are very high.

Work in Switzerland

Competition for Swiss jobs is fierce and opportunities are more limited for those coming from outside of the EU or EFTA (European Free Trade Association), as there are often quotas for jobs in Switzerland for foreigners, even for highly-skilled, well-qualified specialists.

However, finding a job in Switzerland is possible, including a small selection of jobs in Switzerland for English-speakers, especially in sectors where there are high shortages of skilled workers. In multicultural Switzerland, however, language is often key to finding work in Switzerland.

Job market in Switzerland

The Swiss economy is stable and the Swiss unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the world, standing at 4.3% in March 2020. However, foreigners account for almost half of those who are officially without work.

Cross-border workers also continue to play an important role in Switzerland, with some 332,177 cross-border workers active in Switzerland in the three months to the end of June 2020.

High-skilled and professional industries play a strong role in the Swiss economy, with some of the biggest sectors including chemicals, banking, insurance, pharmaceuticals, watch manufacturing and food retail. The Swiss government has information on key Swiss sectors on its website.

Many large multinationals have based themselves in Switzerland, largely due to favorable Swiss tax conditions. Nestle is the largest company in Switzerland in terms of number of employees, with 323,000 workers. Other large firms include:

  • Glencore International
  • ABB
  • Novartis
  • SGS
  • Roche
  • Zurich
  • Credit Suisse
  • Adecco

Since 2017, the Swiss government has restricted the number of non-EU/EFTA foreign workers in the country. The quotas undergo a review each year; there are 8,500 for 2020.

Job vacancies in Switzerland

Switzerland may be a small country but it’s a nation with a highly-skilled workforce (in high-, micro- and biotechnology for example) and an important industrial nation, with half of all Swiss export revenue coming from mechanical/electrical engineering and the chemicals sector. It’s also one of the world’s major financial centers. So there are jobs for skilled workers in engineering and technology, pharmaceuticals, consulting, banking, insurance, and IT, with financial analysts, business analysts, and systems analysts in great demand.

As of September 2019, Switzerland had 79,000 job vacancies. Sectors experiencing the greatest skills shortages are:

  • engineering
  • technical (e.g., heating, ventilation, air conditioning technicians)
  • finance
  • IT
  • medicine and pharmaceutical
  • legal

Job salaries in Switzerland

Salaries in Switzerland are the highest not just among EU/EFTA countries but anywhere in the world. The gross median Swiss wage in 2018 was CHF 6,538. This varies across regions, with the highest average in Zurich (CHF 6,965) and the lowest in Ticino (CHF 5,363).

Switzerland has no official minimum wage, however, the law contains clauses on minimum compensation for workers. These are currently between CHF 2,200–4,200 a month for unskilled workers and CHF 2,800–5,300 for skilled workers.
See even more in our guide to average salaries in Switzerland.
Work culture in Switzerland
The Swiss appreciate sobriety, thrift, tolerance, punctuality, and a sense of responsibility, and they reflect this in their business practices, which tend to be formal and conservative. The culture within a Swiss company can vary according to whether the company is in the French, German or Italian regions of Switzerland.
As a rule, the hierarchy tends to be vertical, with decision-making taking place at the top of the company. Companies in French and Italian areas may be more laid back than German areas. Meetings focus on tasks and are rather impersonal; discussions are precise, cautious, and can seem a little negative to some. The Swiss are tough but fair negotiators and humor has no place in negotiations. Working hours can be long: some 45 to 50 hours a week.

Labor laws and labor rights in Switzerland

Swiss workers get a minimum of four weeks of holiday a year, plus public holidays. For workers aged under 20, this extends to five weeks a year.

Most employees will receive a written employment contract. This contract details employment rights, including conditions of termination of contract. The notice period for either party is in the contract. If not, the Code of Obligations regulates the minimum period which stands at:

  • Seven calendar days during any probation or trial period;
  • One month during the first year of employment;
  • Two months between years 2-9 of employment;
  • Three months for 10 years and above.

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