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Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland
Tens of thousands of French workers commute to Geneva daily. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Nearly half of French workers living near the Swiss border are employed in Geneva. That’s because French companies can’t match the salaries these people are earning in Switzerland.


According to a report by Switzerland’s SRF television, more than 44 percent of French nationals who live near the Swiss border work in Geneva. 

These numbers are based on a report by the French Institute for Statistics and Demographic Studies.

About 85,000 workers commute to their jobs in Geneva each day from the nearby French regions of Haute-Savoie and Ain.

These employees - called frontaliers - prefer to work in Switzerland because they can earn up to double the salary they would get in France for the same job. Also, taxes are lower in Switzerland than in France.

This poses a problem for French companies located near the border, as they can’t find any personnel.

For instance, Jean Benoît-Guyot runs a plumbing business in the French commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, which is located right on the border with the canton of Geneva.

He said he would like to immediately hire at least five employees, but can't find anyone locally.


"Everyone wants to work in Switzerland", he told the SRF.

The same situation is common in Switzerland's other border areas as well.

READ MORE: Will Switzerland extend the beneficial tax arrangements for cross-border workers? 

Kévin Lecoq, who lives in the French region bordering the Swiss canton of Jura told the SRF that at end of his cooking apprenticeship he didn't even look for work in France, but went straight to Switzerland.

Today he works with four other French citizens in a pizzeria in the Jura town of Saignelégier.

"If we add up everything that has to be paid in taxes, we still have one and a half times the French salary", he said.

Another cross-border effect of Swiss wages is that frontaliers are driving up the rents and living costs in the neighbouring areas of France. This, in turn, encourages even more French workers to seek employment in Switzerland.

But while the SRF report focused on the French, the same situation exists in cantons of Ticino and Basel, which share borders with Italy and Germany, respectively.

More than 67,000 Italian cross-border workers are employed in Ticino, and over 33,000 Germans are employed in Switzerland.

In total, 329,000 frontaliers work for Swiss companies.

Cross-border commuters can be employed in Switzerland thanks to a bilateral agreement,The Free Movement of Persons, that the government signed with the countries of the European Union. It allows EU nationals free access to the Swiss labour market.


Comments (1)

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Anonymous 2020/07/14 09:14
I know that many who live in France choose to work in Switzerland due to higher salary, but I also know that for a lot of people, the process was the opposite. They were offered a job in Switzerland, but in certain Swiss cities (Geneva for example, which hosts a lot of French cross-border workers), there is a serious housing shortage, so a lot of people are forced to extend the perimeters of their housing search.

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