what is it like to live and work in Switzerland

Switzerland enjoys a very high standard of living and a stunning nature. The three largest Swiss cities are always among the top places to live in the world. Swiss have a reputation for their punctuality and efficiency. The Swiss banks and the efficient public transport system are known worldwide.

We interviewed the talent acquisition expert Ilsa Zulji to find out more about what it is like to live and work in Switzerland, the beautiful country in the heart of Europe.

  1. Please introduce yourself briefly.

My name is Ilsa Zulji, I’m from Zurich and working as a Talent Acquisition & Identification Expert for Coca-Cola HBC in Switzerland.

  1. Can you describe the labour market in Switzerland?

The labour market in Switzerland is quite stable. We have a low unemployment rate and a lot of qualified personnel due to a high education standard. There is no general recommendation on how easy it is to find a job, because it depends on the occupation. There is a high demand for personnel in hospitals (doctors, nurses), IT or engineering. In these job categories we also have a lot of foreign employees in Switzerland. Salaries vary as well depending on the job and education level of an employee. Minimum wage is roughly CHF 3200.—per month. As a reference: a person working as a specialist for a big international company with the needed educational background could earn approx. CHF 7’000.— per month (also depending on the company size and location). Living costs for a single person are quite high in Switzerland; a two room apartment is approx. CHF 1500.—per month (rural area), insurances, public transport, food, and any additional costs are at a very high price level as well.

You can find a detailed breakdown of the cost of living in Switzerland on Studying in Switzerland.

  1. What are the most demanded specialists right now in Switzerland?

Healthcare professionals (doctors, nurses etc.), engineers/mechanics, specialists in IT and/or finance.

  1. What are the most common job search channels in Switzerland?

Job boards like jobs.ch, jobwinner.ch and social media platforms like linkedin. Big recruiting agencies like Manpower, Randstad or Michael Page are currently dominating the labour market. A lot of smaller headhunters are now getting into the labour market as well.  Newspaper is very rare and only used for specific job postings.

  1. How would you rate the balance between pay and cost of living? Is it common people in Switzerland to be able to save some money?

Depending on the salary and costs of living it can be quite tough to save money.

  1. How would you rate the work-life balance in Switzerland?

Very low. Swiss people tend to work a lot, average hours working in an office is at around 42 hours per week. Swiss employees tend to work even more and take less time for their private lives. So it is really a work-life and not a life-work balance.

  1. In your opinion, is it easy for an expat to find a job in Switzerland? Is it possible to find a job remotely or the person has to be in Switzerland?

The person has to be in Switzerland. In addition we have quite strict law regulations when it comes to hiring people from abroad. There is a law in Switzerland that you first have to prove that you didn’t find an adequate candidate in Switzerland before you can start looking abroad. Top management positions on the other hand are mostly occupied by expats.

  1. Is it easy to find a job knowing English only and not any of the local languages in Switzerland?

Usually not. At least one of the local languages is needed. German is a must in most of the companies. This also varies depending on the level of the job.

  1. Do you know of any case when people are being treated in a different way at work, either positive or negative, just because they are foreigners?

Yes, mainly when it comes to the salary and language skills. I know of certain cases where foreigners receive less money in the beginning of their career in Switzerland because they were not informed about the salary standards. In addition every foreigner has to prove the educational background as the university standard in Switzerland is higher in comparison to other countries.

  1. What is considered to be a good salary according to the Swiss standards that would allow a single person to have a comfortable living? What about a family with 2 kids?

For a single I would suggest roughly CHF 70’000 per year. But also depending on where this person lives. In Zurich for example this would not be enough because housing is very expensive. A family with two kids should have at least 100’000 per year in order to live a comfortable live. But also depending on the needs of the family.

  1. In case of an unemployment, do people receive any help from the Government?

Yes, social security is an important topic in Switzerland. But you need to be employed by a Swiss company for at least one year in order to get a payment from the social security.

  1. In your opinion, where in Switzerland are the best places to live and work and why?

It depends on the wishes. There are different great places to work and live in Switzerland. A lot of international companies have their headquarters in Zug, Zurich, Basel or Geneva.

  1. Would you move to work and live in another country and why?

Yes, but I would always come back to Switzerland. But different cultures and people are always a great inspiration to me.

  1. Do you know any expats in Switzerland? Have they had any issues finding a job? What do they work now?

Yes, most of them have a lot of difficulties finding a job in Switzerland. Mainly because of the language skills and the different educational system in Switzerland.

  1. What do you like most about Switzerland?

In my opinion Switzerland is offering a lot of benefits to its inhabitants. Mainly I would see the political stability, educational system, social security approach. For any private activities Switzerland offers a lot of possibilities for either single people or families. Although the country is quite small, many activities can be found in close distance within a beautiful landscape (e.g. cultural or sportive).

  1. What is that you don’t like about Switzerland?

Generally speaking I would wish to have a change in the mindset of the Swiss population. Compared to other countries in Europe, the pressure in Switzerland is very high also due to the fact that the labour market is stable and highly competitive. The pressure to perform is pervasive in Switzerland, so I would wish that in the future it’s more a life-work balance instead of a work-life balance.