‘Unprecedented crisis’: New figures show stark impact of pandemic on all Swiss job sectors

The pandemic-related economic slump has significantly increased the number of job seekers in Switzerland. Which sectors are most in demand?

Jobs in construction dwindled during the pandemic Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, the number of job seekers has soared, according to an analysis by Swiss public broadcaster RTS. 

“It is an unprecedented crisis, especially because of the speed of its arrival and the paralysis of the economy from one day to another,” said Charles de Reyff, head of the public employment service in the canton of Fribourg.

Three sectors had recorded the highest unemployment: hotels and restaurants, construction, and transport.

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

While jobs were in demand across all industries, the highest demand was in the restaurant and hotel sector, where 70 percent more people looked for jobs in the fall of 2020 than in the same period in 2019.

Next is the construction sector, with 53 percent more job seekers than the previous year.

Manufacturing, transport and technical branches recorded 47, 46 and 43 percent more demand, respectively.

Other areas where more people sought employment than before the pandemic include public administration (33 percent) and finance and insurance (25 percent).

However, “figures from the regional employment offices indicate that all the sectors were durably affected” RTS said.

One notable exception: in gambling and gambling organisations the number of job seekers has dropped slightly.

Pandemic clearly to blame

This general growth in the number of job seekers can be explained by the effects of the pandemic.

“In the spring there was a hiring freeze and almost immediate dismissals of people on probation to limit the damage,” de Reyff noted.

As a result, many fixed-term contracts were not renewed.

RTS also found that most job-seekers were young. Compared to 2019, there were 70 percent more 20-24 year olds looking for employment in 2020 than in the previous year. Among 45-59 year olds, the increase was around 30 percent.

“Young people have suffered the greatest repercussions because they often arrive on the labour market without experience “, according to Giovanni Ferro-Luzzi, economics professor at the University of Geneva.  

De Reyff said that the youngest are often the first to be made redundant in the event of a crisis, but also often the first to be rehired, which gives him hope that they will quickly find a job when economy recovers.

This may be the case this year, as economists predict a more positive outlook for the Swiss economy than was thought in previous months.

The situation in the construction sector is improving, and  the manufacturing sector, in particular the paper, chemical and electrical industries are “more optimistic than before”.

READ MORE: Why Switzerland’s economy is on the up despite the coronavirus pandemic 

Member comments

  1. Swap the word ‘demand’ with ‘supply’ in this article and suddenly it makes a lot more sense.

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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