Expats hardest hit again as jobless rate rises

Despite economic growth, the unemployment rate continued to rise in Switzerland last month, jumping to 3.5 percent from 3.2 percent in November, with foreigners responsible for most of the increase, government figures showed on Friday.

Expats hardest hit again as jobless rate rises
Areas in red highlight cantons with the highest unemployment. Image: Seco

The share of expats out of work leapt to 6.9 percent in December, up from 6.2 percent the previous month and 6.5 percent a year earlier, a report from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) said.

Foreigners accounted for almost half (48.3 percent) of those officially unemployed, the figures showed.

The figures followed a well-established pattern: when the number of people without work in Switzerland expands, expats are hardest hit.

The level of jobless Swiss increased to 2.4 percent from 2.3 percent in November and a year earlier.

At the end of December. a total of 149,437 people were registered for unemployment benefits, 10,364 more than the previous month.

The number of job seekers increased to 205,802, up 9,280 from November.

Switzerland’s average unemployment rate for 2013 rose to 3.2 percent from 2,9 percent in 2012, Seco said.

The jobless rate for December worsened in every canton in the country except Graubünden, where the level dropped to two percent from 2.1 percent.

The biggest increases were recorded in Valais, where the rate swelled to 5.6 percent from 4.2 percent.

Neuchâtel (5.8 percent, up from 5.3 percent) posted the highest unemployment rate in Switzerland, ahead of Valais and Geneva (5.6 percent, up from 5.5 percent).

Obwalden (1.2 percent, up from 1.1 percent) and Nidwalden (1.2 percent, up from one percent) boasted the lowest rates in the country.

The jobless rate in Zurich hit 3.5 percent, up from 3.2 percent, while in Basel City the figure reached 3.9 percent, up from 3.7 percent.

The full report is available (in French, German and Italian) here.

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Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

The Covid pandemic hit Switzerland hard, although the country's largest city has rebounded strongly.

Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

Measures imposed due to the Covid pandemic, which began in earnest in February 2020, shuttered businesses across the country and pushed many people out of work. 

When most notable Covid rules were relaxed in Switzerland in mid-February 2022, the economic recovery – highlighted by a strong job market – began in earnest in 2021. 

READ MORE: How the Swiss job market rebounded from the Covid pandemic

Nowhere was this more evident than Zurich, Switzerland’s largest and most economically powerful city. 

How did Zurich rebound from the Covid pandemic in comparison to the rest of the country?

Even though Zurich, along with other large Swiss cities like Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne, have been hit hard by the pandemic from the employment perspective, Zurich’s labour market is now growing faster than in other urban centres.

One of the reasons for this upward trend is that young, well-educated foreigners are coming back.

In the first nine months of 2021, the city’s population grew significantly.

In September alone, it recorded 2,200 additional residents.

This is mainly due to people with a B residence permit, according to Klemens Rosin, methodologist at Zurich’s Statistics Office.

During the crisis, far fewer of them left the city. “This group is made up of well-educated, younger and mobile foreigners who have made a significant contribution to Zurich’s growth”, Rosin said.

Zurich’s employment market is expect to grow even further.

READ MORE: How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

That’s because in the coming years, many Zurich workers will retire — an estimated  210,000 by year 2050 — creating more job opportunities for younger employees.

In fact, according to a study commissioned by the canton in 2021, if Zurich’s economy is to continue to flourish, it will need around 1.37 million workers by mid-century.

If these vacancies will not be filled, then income, tax revenue and the financing of social security programs will be impacted.

READ MORE: Have your say: What’s the best way to find a job in Zurich

While it is difficult to predict what jobs will be most in demand in 2050 — what new technologies will emerge in the meantime — right now and in medium term, IT workers will be especially needed, experts say, because businesses will continue to to digitalise and automate.

Lower skilled jobs will also be in higher demand, including hospitality, retail and transport. 

With hundreds of thousands of vacancies to fill, people with the permission to work in Switzerland are likely to be flush with offers – particularly skilled workers with recognised qualifications. 

READ MORE: Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier