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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Where are the jobs in Switzerland for English speakers?

Switzerland seems to offer it all for the international worker - a very high standard of living, great pay, excellent infrastructure and stunning natural beauty in the heart of Europe. The question is, are they hiring? 

Trams in Zurich.
Trams in Zurich. The Greater Zurich area has a lot of potential for jobs. Image by Markus Krebs from Pixabay

We examine what you’re most likely to find a job doing as an English-speaker in Switzerland, and get an insight on the job market from one sector popular with new arrivals.

What and where – theoretically – are the jobs? 

Thanks to a combination of geography – being right in the middle of Europe – politics and history, Switzerland is a country where a number of large companies and research organisations are based. 

Banking, of course, is a Swiss strength. UBS and Raiffeisen are two local powerhouses, but there are also a significant number of private banks catering to an affluent clientele. 

Most global banks also have one or more offices – many of them in the nation’s financial capital, Zurich. 

Pharmaceuticals are another area in which Switzerland excels – it constitutes around five percent of the country’s gross domestic product. 

Swiss pharmaceutical giants include Roche and Novartis, with smaller, more specialised companies numbering in the hundreds, if not thousands.

READ ALSO: ‘10,000 job vacancies’: Where are workers in Switzerland most needed?

Many of these are based in or near the city of Basel, and as a consequence, many international pharmaceutical companies also have a presence there. 

The so-called ‘Health Valley’, stretching from Geneva eastwards towards Montreux is also home to over a thousand companies in the medical and life sciences field.  

Switzerland is also a leader in research and education, with several universities among the world’s top-ranked for research and innovation. 

Top employers in scientific research include the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne, Federal Institute of Technology Zurich, the University of Zurich, the University of Basel and the University of Bern.

Leading business schools such as the International Institute for Management Development, the University fo St Gallen and the Swiss Business School also employ a significant number of educators and international support staff. 

Signs of trouble? 

If you’re an IT worker, however, be wary. Despite the relative concentration of executive-level and research jobs within Switzerland, the events of the last few years have seen tech jobs take a beating. 

Greg Tomasik, founder of job board SwissDevJobs.ch told The Local: “The IT job market is currently much worse than in the beginning of 2023. 

“Starting in 2020 there was a big bull run in the job market, up until mid 2022. After that, the bubble started losing air. 

“Currently, there are around 30 percent less open roles compared to the beginning of 2023. On the other hand, the average number of candidates per job doubled, from 14 to 28.”

If you are seeking tech-related jobs, however, one area does stand out. 

Greg continues: “The Greater Zurich area remains the main economic hub in Switzerland. It is also where most of the tech roles are located. 

“We also see some rise in crypto-related roles in Zug area since most of the crypto companies are located there.”

Greg Tomasik, founder of SwissDevJobs.ch

With more candidates for fewer jobs, Greg has some focused advice for those looking for a Swiss tech job.

“Try to make sure that you fit the essential requirements. In the application, try to highlight that you meet the requirements and add a few sentences why you are applying specifically to this company,” he said. 

“Only a small fraction of candidates do it, and you will definitely stand out if you go to the effort. 

“One more thing, especially for junior candidates: learn the AI coding tools and stay on top of current trends. Tools like Copilot replace much of the work that was previously done by junior software engineers, and now they also need to adapt.”

READ ALSO: Why is Switzerland’s chronic labour shortage worsening?

Member comments

  1. It’s a good description of what is available. I would add that the UN agencies and NGOs around Geneva sometimes have jobs for English speakers, and also that there are a lot of international sports federations in Switzerland, many of which work mostly in English.

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JOBS

Which professions in Switzerland are harder for foreigners to break into?

In many sectors of Switzerland’s economy, Swiss employees prevail over foreign ones — and vice-versa.

Which professions in Switzerland are harder for foreigners to break into?

In the past, the ‘division of labour’ in Switzerland was clear: foreign nationals held mostly manual (and therefore lower-paid) jobs, while the Swiss worked in managerial / executive and other middle and high positions.

Many sectors still follow these traditional roles, with some jobs held almost exclusively by Swiss citizens, and others by foreign nationals.

Which jobs are mostly held by the Swiss?

To find this out, the Basel-based consultancy firm, Demografik, surveyed professions with more than 10,000 employees.

It found that “about 60 percent of the country’s masons and flooring installers are foreign-born,” Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), reported.

The comparable figure among the country’s unskilled workers as a whole is even higher —  84 percent.

“Swiss nationals also make up only a third of kitchen assistants and cleaning staffers” — jobs typically held by immigrants with no higher education or vocational training.

On the other hand, Swiss citizens hold a number of jobs that are almost unattainable for unskilled foreign nationals, including police officers, teachers, lawyers, senior administrative staff, and social workers.

Only a small percentage of immigrants work in these professions.

However, they dominate fields such as service staff, chauffeurs, unskilled industrial workers, and construction — jobs where very few Swiss can be found.

Why is this?

“The proportion of foreign workers is highest in jobs that are generally considered unappealing – whether because of the low pay, high level of physical demands or irregular working hours,” said Demografik economist Lisa Triolo.

“Nevertheless, these professions are important for the functioning of the economy, because they are difficult to automate.”

Triolo also found that foreigners mainly work in areas where recruiting employees has been difficult.

“The longer the vacancy period in an occupational group, the higher the proportion of foreigners,” she pointed out.  “For example, construction is the sector in which companies take the longest to fill an open position.”

Is this survey objective?

It is, if you focus primarily on unskilled foreign workers, who basically take on jobs that the Swiss don’t want.

The picture is different, however, if you include skilled professionals into the mix.

Many of them hold the same positions, and earn equal or even higher wages, than their Swiss counterparts.

READ ALSO: In which jobs in Switzerland do foreign workers earn more than the Swiss? 

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