The latest Michael Page Swiss Job Index shows more jobs being advertised across the country, with western Switzerland leading the way. Demand for engineers grew significantly and the negative trend in IT jobs reversed from the second half of last year. Other sectors showing big increases were the metal industry and health and social services.
“There seems to be a consensus that the second half of 2013 will see a return to recovery,” Luca Semeraro, managing director of Michael Page Switzerland, tells The Local. “Some sectors still face a decline, but across the board things are improving.”
Swiss SMEs are generally hiring more than multinationals, “which remain slightly conservative and cautious due to their greater exposure to global difficulties”, Semeraro notes.
Demand for foreign staff tends to decrease in economically uncertain times, he says. When things are looking up, the prospects are better for expat workers. Foreign workers are most in demand in sectors or disciplines facing the greatest shortage of qualified staff.
'Huge demand for IT'
Matthew Moore, a software development specialist at Stamford Consultants, a specialist recruitment company in both IT and Life Science, backs this up. Moore points out that Switzerland is a big IT development centre. The low jobless rate here coupled with a tendency for Swiss not to choose IT careers has created “a huge demand and a lot of that has to be met from outside”, he tells The Local.
“In terms just of value, the software exports of Switzerland are worth more than the chocolate. Google headquarters are here, Microsoft is here, so there’s a lot going on.”
But Moore cautions that SMEs might be more reluctant to take foreign staff because they don’t speak the local language. “Fundamentally the big employers for foreigners are the large multinationals where English is the main business language,” he says.
Another feature of the job market at the moment – particularly in IT – is a tendency to give workers short-term contracts of three months to a year, rather than permanent positions, to save costs. “Contracting is more popular at the moment with all the big banks simply because they’re risk averse and contracting is an easy way to have the employee and not have to deal with the risk,” Moore says.
Contracts can just as easily be filled by European Union workers as by Swiss. “From the EU we can have someone work for 90 days without even needing a permit,“ Kurt von Moos, a Lausanne-based IT recruiter says.
The issue of work permits can be a headache for recruiters. Firms are not going to pay a recruitment agent if they then have to go through a complex process to organize a work permit. Moore has the following advice for non-EU citizens looking to relocate: “If you need a work permit, apply directly to the employer, they are more likely to look at you than if you applied through an agency. “
The company with most jobs advertised in February was Basel-based pharmaceutical giant Novartis. Satoshi Sugimoto, a company spokesman, says Novartis is looking for the best talent, irrespective of nationality and cultural background and recruits globally.
“As English is our corporate language, proficiency (in the language) for international positions is a prerequisite,” Sugimoto tells The Local. “The knowledge of other languages is clearly an asset.”
Other advice from recruiters is to build up your social network and, if you are currently unemployed, to give your full attention to the job search. “If you spend eight hours looking for companies and sending CVs, you will find a job,” says Moore, from Stamford Consultants. “If you’re not going to go through an agency, you are going to have to do the work yourself.”
But expats have one big advantage over the Swiss when it comes to finding a job, Moore believes, and that is their mobility. “Swiss people tend to look for jobs near where they live,” he says. “They’re not very mobile, and this is an advantage for foreigners because they usually will relocate. For most foreigners who come out here there are very good opportunities.”