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Swiss politicians call for ‘lost’ public holidays to be replaced

Unlike in many other countries, public holidays which fall on a weekend disappear completely. With 2022 particularly hard hit, some in Switzerland are demanding a UK-style change.

Zurich is one of the few Swiss cantons to give people a holiday on May 1st, although not in 2022. Photo by Tomas Jerabek on Unsplash
Zurich is one of the few Swiss cantons to give people a holiday on May 1st, although not in 2022. Photo by Tomas Jerabek on Unsplash

This weekend, May 1st – the global celebration of workers winning valuable and sometimes life-saving rights – falls on a Sunday, which means Switzerland’s workers will not receive a holiday in recognition. 

In fact, 2022 is not a great year for public holidays. New Year’s day was already lost to a weekend this year, while Christmas Day will also fall on a Sunday.

11 Swiss cantons have a holiday on May 1st, although none of these will be carried over to a working day in 2022. 

Which Swiss cantons have a public holiday on May 1st?

Several union representatives as well as Swiss politicians have called for a change in the rules. 

In total, 85 countries from all across the globe provide a compensation day if a day off falls on the weekend, including Belgium, Luxembourg, England, Ireland, Spain, Australia and Thailand. 

Switzerland’s unions have called for holidays on weekends to be carried over. 

Luca Cirigliano from the Swiss Confederation of Trade Unions told 20 Minutes such a change should be a priority. 

“We demand that public holidays that fall on a non-working Saturday or Sunday must be granted,” Syna Union Vice President Mandy Zeckra said on Tuesday. 

Zeckra said all Union employees receive a day off in lieu when a holiday falls on a weekend.  

Sibel Arslan (Greens), a member of the National Council, said the economy cannot function without workers. 

She told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes that Labour Day should be a nationwide holiday and that Switzerland was “throwing employees blindly into a hamster wheel”. 

Another Green politician, Katharina Prelicz-Huber, told 20 Minutes she supported the move. 

READ MORE: Why dancing is banned on public holidays in Switzerland

Arslan formally asked Switzerland’s governing Federal Council in March of 2021 for public holidays which fall on a weekend to be carried over but was rebuffed. 

Then President Guy Parmelin rebuffed her approach, saying the Federal Council was not open to changing the law. 

The efforts have also seen resistance from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party. 

SVP councillor Barbara Steinemann said “there are people who are always looking for a reason not to work.”

Elisabeth Schneider-Schneiter from Die Mitte told 20 Minutes “we have other problems right now,” while party colleague Leo Müller was against the idea of replacing holidays completely. 

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For members


Employment: This is where Switzerland’s jobs are right now

Switzerland’s labour market bounced back quite well from the Covid pandemic, with many industries looking to hire skilled workers. A new study shows where most vacant positions are.

Employment: This is where Switzerland's jobs are right now

As The Local recently reported, “many sectors are looking for qualified workers, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which reports that the unemployment rate was a record-low 2.3 percent in April, and the number of job seekers is currently 25 percent lower than at the same time in 2021. 

While many industries are experiencing a boom — for instance, jobs in IT, healthcare, construction and sales are plentiful — the shortage of skilled employees is a huge problem for many employers.

READ MORE: Which jobs are in demand in Switzerland right now – and how much can you earn?

Now a study by the Swiss section of Manpower recruiting agency sheds light on where in Switzerland most job vacancies are, which could be helpful to everyone looking for employment now.

The good news for job seekers is that “the market situation is very positive for employees…Skilled workers are scarce and the shortage cannot simply be filled by workers from neighbouring countries”, according to Peter Unternährer, Manpower’s regional director for central and eastern Switzerland.

Manpower’s survey for the second quarter of 2022 (April to June) shows that 38 percent of Switzerland’s employers plan to hire new workers.

Most job opportunities (32 percent of employers seeking to hire personnel) are found in the greater Zurich area, followed by 31 percent in the Mittelland, which encompasses the cantons of Bern, Fribourg, Jura, Neuchâtel and Solothurn.

Next (30 percent) are in the Lake Geneva region, which includes the city and canton of Geneva, as well as Vaud.

In central Switzerland, 24 percent of companies are looking for employees, 23 percent in the eastern part of the country, and 18 percent in the northwest.

Manpower also found that 75 percent of the companies surveyed promote gender equality and 63 percent promote diversity in the workplace — meaning they are inclusive of employees of all backgrounds and nationalities, both in terms of hiring practices and wages.

Overall, Switzerland’s unemployment rate is much lower than across the European Union — where more than 6 percent are jobless, according to latest figures from Eurostat — because the Swiss economy was already sturdier than many others before Covid struck, so was in a better position to withstand the crisis.

But Switzerland was also one of the very few countries that have been able to attract international companies to its shores even in the midst of the pandemic, which translated into more jobs for the local workforce.

Experts believe this is due to the country’s strengths, including political, economic and financial conditions.

“Even in a time of crisis, Switzerland scored thanks to its stability, predictability and security”, said Patrik Wermelinger, member of the executive board of Switzerland Global Enterprise (SGE), which promotes the country abroad on behalf of the federal government and the cantons.

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