Labour market

The Swiss labour market is renowned for its stability, large proportion of part-time workers and low unemployment rate. More than a quarter of employees are foreign nationals. 

Commuters working in a train
In Switzerland, over 75% of individuals aged 15 to 64 are employed, with approximately one-third of them working part-time. © FDFA, Presence Switzerland

The Swiss labour market is renowned for its stability. Collective labour agreements between employee organisations and employers govern working conditions in many sectors. Strikes are extremely rare and Switzerland has one of the most flexible labour markets in the world. 

Labour market composition

In Switzerland, 4.5 million people between the ages of 15 and 64 are in employment. A quarter of these workers are employed in science, academia and other knowledge-based sectors. Women make up nearly half of the labour force. A sizeable proportion of women work part-time, generally because of family commitments: in 2022, 57% of women in employment worked part-time, compared with just 16% of men. Foreign workers are an integral part of the Swiss labour market, accounting for more than a quarter of the total workforce. In Switzerland, employees highly value continuing professional development, and most employers support them in this. In 2021, one in two employees underwent continuing professional development. 

Salaries and working hours

The median gross salary for full-time employees in 2020 was CHF 6,665 per month. The lowest-paid 10% of employees earned less than CHF 4,382 gross per month, compared with over CHF 11,996 gross per month for the highest-paid 10%. Switzerland does not have a state-set minimum wage.

In 2020, the average salary in the private sector was CHF 6,361 gross per month, compared with CHF 8,012 gross per month in the public sector. Significant wage disparities exist across industries. Industries with high added value, such as information technology (CHF 9,206 gross per month), pharmaceuticals (CHF 10,040 gross per month) and banking (CHF 10,211 gross per month) tend to pay the highest salaries. Sectors that pay below the national average include retail (CHF 4,997 gross per month), catering (CHF 4,479 gross per month), tourist accommodation (CHF 4,488 gross per month) and personal services (CHF 4,211 gross per month).

In Switzerland, the standard contractual working week is typically 40 to 42 hours and employees are entitled to 4 to 5 weeks' holiday per year.

Over the three decades from 1973 to 2003, contractual working hours for full-time employees fell steadily from 45.1 to 41.7 hours per week. They have remained stable since then. 

Unemployment rate

Switzerland's unemployment rate is one of the lowest in Europe:  in 2022, it was 2.2%. Foreign nationals residing in Switzerland, however, had an unemployment rate of 3.8%. Among young people, the unemployment rate is below the national average, although this age group is particularly affected by economic fluctuations.

Some sectors are subject to seasonal fluctuations: This is especially evident in the construction industry, which accounts for around 10% of all unemployed people.  The cantons of Geneva, Jura and Vaud in western Switzerland have the highest unemployment rates. The lowest rates are found in Central Switzerland (Appenzell Innerrhoden, Obwalden, Nidwalden and Uri).