WORKING ABROAD / JUL. 15, 2013
version 2, draft 2

How to Move to Switzerland for Employment

Switzerland, although a small country, is by no means insignificant when it comes to career opportunities and living standards. In fact, Switzerland is considered one of the most advantageous locations in the world to live and work in.

The employment rate in Switzerland is high, and the quality of life is one of the best in the world, so it is understandable why so many expats from all over the globe are keen to relocate there.

With a stable economy, mere 3.1% unemployment rate, and excellent job prospects, Switzerland looks set the remain a favourite amongst professionals and graduates of all levels of experience and industry backgrounds.

Where to work in Switzerland

Zurich and Geneva are the most popular cities in Switzerland for expats as many of the most famous and long-standing multinational companies operate from there. It should be noted however that these two cities have very high living costs, so unless you land yourself a well-paid job, you may find it very difficult to survive financially in the city.

Geneva is a popular city to find employment, with 50% of the city’s labour force being foreign nationals. For foreign nationals who wish to work in the banking sector in Switzerland, it is advised to job hunt in Zurich – the country’s main banking area.

One of the biggest reasons why expats and professionals are drawn to Zurich, is because the city boasts the highest gross and net wage levels in the world. Zurich also has a high standard of living.

Jobs market

Unfortunately, the jobs market is highly competitive, not only from other international workers wishing to move to Switzerland, but from local skilled labour too.

Jobs in the financial services industry are in particular demand as they offer excellent salaries and working conditions. The primary industries of employment include banking, insurance and consulting, although a significant amount of the country’s GDP derives from tourism, making the hospitality industry very important. Skilled workers who can speak English are in demand in Switzerland’s tourism sector, especially qualified ski and snowboard instructors.

Language requirements

Switzerland is well known for being multilingual. Most residents are fluent in French and English, whilst German French, Italian and Romansh are also spoken widely.

Moving to Switzerland as a Foreign Worker

The number of foreign nationals working in Switzerland is continuously rising, and there is now an estimated 1.5 million foreigners residing and working in the country.

It should be noted that EU/EFTA nationals can work in Switzerland without the need to obtain a work permit, in fact, they are within their rights to reside in Switzerland for up to 3 months to find work, visa-free.

Foreign nationals on the other hand are legally required to obtain a work permit in order to engage in employment in Switzerland. There are very strict quotas and immigration systems in place and a work permit will usually only be issued where a Swiss or EU national cannot fulfill the job requirements.

Employee rights and benefits

EU/EFTA and foreign nationals enjoy the same employment rights and benefits as Swiss nationals do under Swiss Labour Law. This means that foreign nationals must be employed under the same salary brackets and working conditions as their Swiss and EU counterparts.

Employees work a maximum of 45 hours per week and overtime is permitted. With regards to annual leave, employees are also entitled to four weeks paid leave from work. Employers in Switzerland cannot discriminate against employees especially when hiring and terminating contracts of employment and it should be noted that sickness is not a reasonable cause for termination. Where maternity leave results in the end of employment, compensation will be given.

There are more reasons for moving to Switzerland than not to move to there. So if if you are contemplating a change of scenery why not try Switzerland?

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