Jobs in Switzerland: Which sectors have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic?

The health crisis has impacted Switzerland’s job market, with the number of unemployed people rising across the country. Some 48,000 more people than in the same month last year are looking for work.

Jobs in Switzerland: Which sectors have been hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic?
More people are looking for jobs now than last year. Photo by AFP

Some 48,000 more people than in the same month last year are looking for work.

At the end of January 2021, 169,753 people were registered as unemployed with the regional employment offices — 6,208 more than the previous month, according to figures from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). 

The unemployment rate increased from 3.5 percent in December 2020 to 3.7 percent currently. In all, 48,735 people more are jobless, compared to the same period in 2020 —that is a difference of 40.3 percent.

SECO data also shows that:

Among the most impacted sectors are retail and commerce (23,039 unemployed) and hotels and restaurants (18,837).

With the unemployment rate of 3.89 percent, French-speaking Switzerland is more impacted by joblessness than Swiss-German cantons (3.2 percent). The most affected canton is Jura, where unemployment rate is 5.7 percent, followed by Geneva (5.6 percent), Neuchâtel (5.1 percent) and Vaud, (5 percent).

Of the German-speaking cantons, Basel-City has the most unemployed people (4.4 percent), followed by Schaffhausen (4.3 percent) and Aargau (4 percent).

The red areas are the ones most impacted by unemployment. Map by SECO


There are more unemployed among the foreign population (6.7 percent) than among the Swiss (2.5 percent). Of foreign nationals, the highest number of people without jobs come from Eastern Europe: Bulgaria (16.3 percent), Romania (12.1 percent), Poland (10.2 percent), and Hungary (9 percent)

READ MORE: Jobs in Switzerland: Foreigners 'less likely to be hired than Swiss nationals' 

A study published in December 2020, shows that thousands of cross-border workers from France have also been affected by unemployment since the start of the pandemic nearly a year ago. 

About 13 percent of workers from France have lost their Swiss jobs, mostly in the hotel, restaurant, and construction industry.


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Cross-border workers in Switzerland face growing unemployment

About 13 percent of workers from France lost their jobs in Switzerland between March and September, figures show.

Cross-border workers in Switzerland face growing unemployment
Many of those commuting from France to Switzerland have lost their jobs. Photo by AFP

The economic crisis generated by the Covid-19 pandemic caused many cross-border commuters in the Geneva area to lose their jobs, particularly in the hotel, restaurant, and construction sectors.

 “The main victims of the health and economic crisis are, not surprisingly, temporary and seasonal workers”, reported Le Messager, a newspaper in the Haute-Savoie region from where most frontier workers employed in the Lake Geneva area come. 

“About 18 percent of cross-border workers registered as unemployed in France come from the hotel and restaurant sector and 13 percent from the construction industry”, the newspaper said.

A similar situation exists among cross-border workers who are employed in Ticino, where 3,000 employees from Italy have already lost their jobs in 2020.

The number should reach 4,000 by the end of December, a Ticino trade union said.

As in Geneva, most of those who lost their jobs in Ticino also used to work for hotels and restaurants — industries that have been heavily impacted by the pandemic.

READ MORE: Thousands of Italian cross-border workers set to lose their jobs in Switzerland 

In all, more than 120,000 people from France work is the area around Lake Geneva, which encompasses the cantons of Geneva and Vaud.

And about 70,000 Italians work in Ticino.

But regardless of where they live, cross-border workers who hold G permits, get their unemployment benefits in their country of residence if they are unemployed on full-time basis, and in Switzerland if the unemployment is partial.

Contributions for unemployment benefits are automatically deducted from your salary.

If you lose your Swiss job because your employer discontinued your contract, you would have to claim benefits from the unemployment office in your country of residence.

In such a case, request a PD U1 form from the Swiss unemployment office, as well an international employment certificate from your former Swiss employer. 

In case of ‘partial unemployment’, that is, if your work hours are reduced, or if the company you work for temporarily or definitely ceases its activities, then you are entitled to Swiss benefits. 

READ MORE: Switzerland's economy and job market face gloomy outlook, new figures show