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‘Everything is expensive’: What worries you the most about life in Switzerland

From the rising cost of living to job insecurity, our readers told us what they were most worried about heading into 2020.

'Everything is expensive': What worries you the most about life in Switzerland
Photo: Depositphotos

At the end of 2019, we asked readers of The Local Switzerland what worried them the most heading into the new year. 

The question came after the release of Switzerland’s annual ‘worry barometer’, which showed that pensions and health insurance costs were the top two concerns for the Swiss

With 2020 now marked at the top of our calendars, we’ve broken down what worries our readers – many of them internationals but also plenty of born-and-raised Swiss – the most about living in Switzerland. 

When asked to select which issue worried them the most, more than a third (34.6 percent) told us that job security was their major concern. The cost of living in Switzerland was second, attracting one in four responses. 

Pensions (19.2 percent), environmental issues (11.5 percent) healthcare costs (7.7 percent) and crime (3.8 percent) rounded out the list. 

 

Job security 

While Switzerland’s unemployment rate is currently the lowest its been for a decade, the greatest worry of our respondents was about job security. 

READ MORE: An essential guide to being unemployed in Switzerland

Foreign workers are particularly concerned, saying they lack the job security of the Swiss-born. 

Michelle, from Lucerne, said: “Being an immigrant, I worry there’s not much opportunity to move if I lose my job or if it is an unhealthy environment”. 

Securing long-term work is also difficult. Ewa told The Local that “getting an employment contract for more than a year is difficult”, while Shivendra said: “I am an expatriate and my contract is limited”. 

Hernan said this was a real problem, particularly for older workers. “I am approaching 50 years of age and it is very frightening when job tenures have become increasingly short”. 

Looking for jobs is also a major concern in Switzerland for foreigners. Swati said that qualifications did not seem to matter. 

“I am a third-country national, and even with two university degrees in Switzerland, it is impossible for employers to even look at my applications.

READ MORE: Swiss with ‘foreign-sounding' names 'less likely to get job interviews' 

Cost of living

Several respondents complained about the cost of food and rents, while healthcare premiums were also heavily criticized. 

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the cost of living in Switzerland 

One major complaint was about daycare costs, which when added to frequent daycare shortages in the country, have been identified as a major problem. 

Colleen, from Basel, told The Local: “We are expecting our second baby in April and I will likely be unable to go back to work (which I do now with one child) because my salary cannot justify the daycare costs for two children.”

Mihael, a programmer from Baden, summed it up succinctly: “Everything is expensive”. 

Rising worries or an easing of concerns?

Another question we asked of our readers was whether their worries were rising, falling or staying about the same.

The vast majority of our respondents said their concerns were getting worse over time, with a few others saying they were unsure or that they had not been in the country long enough to know. 

Image: Depositphotos

While some of the concerns were personal – i.e. a result of having more children or taking on a mortgage – in other cases blame could be laid at the feet of the government. 

Jovian told The Local that rising tax as well as inflation were fuelling concerns. 

“I am becoming more and more worried about these aspects each year as the taxes become higher, the inflation becomes higher,” he said. 

“I get taxed more as a foreigner which makes it less worth while to live in Switzerland with my family, as opposed to a more equalitarian culture like in Austria or Germany”.

Can we fix it?

We also wanted to know how our readers would tackle the problems should they have the opportunity to have a quick word with the Swiss Government. 

One frequent suggestion was for the government to step in and regulate the cost of necessary household items like food, while also restricting increases on childcare and rental costs. 

Another suggestion was to remove restrictions on importing cheaper goods and services from abroad, thereby creating competition to keep Swiss prices down. 

Kandati said a major change would be to remove restrictions on foreign workers, letting them help themselves. 

“They should not restrict skilled people to get jobs by not processing the work permits of third country nationals,” Kandati said. 

“It will be a big loss to Switzerland (if they leave).”

Jovian agreed. 

“(Switzerland should) have a uniform set of laws to grant citizenship to all EU citizens instead of double standards and stop increasing the taxes on the young,” he said. 

“Force the elderly to act responsibly and work if they need more money. 

“It would also help to give the young an option to opt out completely from the pension system. I can take care of myself better than the state can”

Photo: Depositphotos

What, me worry? 

Finally, we asked our readers to give us the low down on what they never worry about while living in the Confoederatio Helvetica.

Perhaps surprisingly, the results were incredibly diverse – with many of the responses contradicting the worries of others. Some respondents said they never worried about money, while others were not concerned at all about job security. 

Philippe in Geneva said employment prospects were not something which kept him up at night. 

“Job security. I'm not worried to risk to lose my job, and even if I do, I know I'd be able to find another one rather quickly,” he said. 

Others said war was not a concern – calling up Switzerland’s famous neutrality – while economic stability was also a load off plenty of our respondents’ minds. 

The number one response was by a long way “security”, with Switzerland’s low crime rate and safety first culture a winner. 

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And finally, Julia from Geneva said the number one thing she never had to worry about while living in Geneva was “being happy”, which has to be perhaps the best endorsement of Switzerland that we’ve ever heard. 

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COST OF LIVING

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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