Labour market

The Swiss labour market is renowned for its stability and low unemployment rate.

Commuters working in a train
© 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.

Switzerland has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Europe. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), unemployment stood at 3.3% in April 2017. The unemployment rate is highest among foreigners (5.9%). Youth unemployment in Switzerland stands at 2.9% however, which is lower than the average. The cantons of Neuchâtel (5.9%), Geneva (5.3%), Jura (4.7%) and Vaud (4.6%) have the highest rates of unemployment, while the lowest are in central Switzerland in the cantons of Lucerne (1.9%), Nidwalden (1.1%), Obwalden (1%), Schwyz (1.8%), Uri (1.2%), and in Appenzell Ausserrhoden (1.8%) and Appenzell Innerrhoden (1%).

Labour market composition and salaries

Women make up around 45.9% of the workforce. 57.3% work part-time, compared with only 16.8% of men. However, part-time work is becoming more common among both sexes – between 2010 and 2015, the percentage of men working part-time increased by 27.2% and by 7.9% for women. In the same period, the number of foreign workers rose by 21.7% to approximately 1.6 million, while the number of Swiss workers increased by 4.7% to approximately 3.6 million. 

The median private sector salary in Switzerland was CHF 6,189 (gross) per month in 2014, 1.2% more than in 2012. However, salary levels vary widely from sector to sector. Salaries are considerable higher than the median in sectors with high value-added like research and development (CHF 9,004), pharmaceuticals (CHF 9,694), banking (CHF 9,549) and insurance (CHF 8,769). Those sectors with salaries below the national median include retail (CHF 4,761), catering and hospitality (CHF 4,333), manufacture of food products (CHF 5,303) and personal services (CHF 3,910). 

Between 2010 and 2015, the average hourly wage in Switzerland rose by 2.6 percentage points while the EU28 countries saw an increase of 11.8 percentage points during the same period.


Additional information