The Swiss Economy and Labor Market
Switzerland is one of the most competitive business locations in the world. Its capacity for innovation and technology, political and social stability, outstanding education system, first-class scientific research institutions and strong international networks make Switzerland an important economic and industrial location. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play a key role in the Swiss economy: SMEs make up 99% of companies, from bakeries to machine manufacturers to IT start-ups, and account for two-thirds of jobs in Switzerland.
The Zurich Labor Market
The canton of Zurich is the business location of choice for many multinational companies. More than one-fifth of Switzerland's gross domestic product (GDP) is generated here. In addition to the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich and other universities as well as research and development centers (R&D centers) such as Google and IBM, Zurich boasts a broad range of innovative industry clusters. The largest cluster is the financial sector, followed by ICT (information and communication technology), life science and cleantech. Innovative enterprises from the medical sector as well as spin-offs from universities are active in the emerging life science cluster. The Canton of Zurich is part of the Greater Zurich Area.
Languages at work
Language is often the key to finding a job in multicultural Switzerland. Many companies in German-speaking Switzerland require good proficiency in German, even though English is often spoken at work. Job-seekers with a foreign native language can therefore significantly improve their career prospects by acquiring or improving their knowledge of the local language. English is sought after at large companies and in certain professions (management, scientific and commercial professions), but also, first and foremost, to complement strong skills in the local language.
In order to work in Switzerland, it is often necessary to have qualifications and skills acquired abroad recognized. You can find detailed information about the procedure in the Recognition of Foreign Diplomas section.
Finding a job that meets your needs, skills and experience requires a great deal of personal commitment and patience. Although a large number of jobs are advertised on online job portals, there are also many vacancies that are not published. In many cases, these jobs are filled through personal and local networks.
For a job search to be successful, online research is therefore at least as important as becoming active yourself: Tap into your personal network, register with social business networks (e.g. LinkedIn or XING) or professionalize your profiles, write unsolicited applications, attend professional events or become a member of a professional organization. Larger companies also sometimes offer career return programs. You can find several examples in the «career return program» teaser.
While online job portals show a majority of vacancies, many companies publish their open positions on their own website. Select the companies you are interested in, get an idea of their profile and find the right contact person for your inquiry or unsolicited application.
Public and Private Employment Services
Public and private employment services can also be helpful. At the national level, public job placement in Switzerland is the responsibility of the Labour Directorate of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). It is organized by canton, however. In the cantons, the regional job centers (Regionale Arbeitsvermittlungszentren – RAV) help unemployed people and nationals of the European Union (EU) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) to find a new job.
Private employment agencies in Switzerland require a permit. The list of recognized companies can be found in SECO's «job placement and recruitment» directory (available in German, French or Italian), where you can search by qualification, sector or location.
Another option is EURES (European Employment Services), a cooperation network of EU/EFTA public recruitment agencies. The aim of EURES is to facilitate the mobility of workers within these countries. On the EURES portal you will find important information about the Swiss labor market, vacancies and points of contact for advice, and you can also upload your CV.