Why cross-border workers from Germany love their Swiss jobs

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why cross-border workers from Germany love their Swiss jobs
German workers on their way to their jobs in Basel. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Nearly 65,000 German citizens commute to their Swiss jobs each day. For them, this employment opportunity is a huge boost to their standard of living.


In all, about 380,000 cross-border commuters from neighbouring countries are currently employed in Switzerland.

Unlike their compatriots who reside permanently in Switzerland under a B or C permit, cross-border employees receive a G permit, which is specifically for foreign nationals resident in a border zone of a neighbouring country.

‘Border zones’, according to Secretariat for Migration, are regions that are in close enough geographic proximity to the Swiss border to make daily commuting to and from work feasible.

READ ALSO : How to get a permit as a cross-border worker in Switzerland

Higher salaries in Switzerland 

G-permit holders typically work in Swiss linguistic regions closest to their country’s borders.

Therefore, the French mostly work in Geneva, Vaud and Jura, while Italians are predominantly employed in Ticino, with a small number also crossing over to Valais and Graubünden.

Most of the cross-border workforce from Germany are employed in Basel, Zurich, Aargau, Schaffhausen, and Thurgau. (Basel, by the way, is also an employment hub for the French, as the canton’s border spans both countries).

While Germans are only the third-largest group of Switzerland’s border labour force, behind the French and Italians (read more about this below), a recent article published in a German publication, Die Spiegel, and picked up by Swiss media as well, explains why people from Germany are happy with their jobs in Switzerland. 

German cross-border employees praise “higher salaries and better working conditions” than they could expect in their own country. 

As Spiegel points out, “anyone who works in Switzerland but lives in Germany, benefits from Swiss wages that are almost twice as high as in their country,” which more than cover "the relatively low prices at home".


One German massage therapist who works part-time in Basel said he earns nearly €3,000 (2,880 francs) per month for a three-day work-week. "Since I've been working in Switzerland, I wallow in luxury and don't think about each euro I spend," he said.

A bonus for cross-border commuters (and not only German ones) is that they receive their salary in francs while almost all expenses are in euros.

Right now 1 francs is worth 1.04 euros, so this is definitely a lucrative deal.

Being paid in francs and spending euros is lucrative. Photo: Pixabay

And even though Germany’s inflation rate (6.2 percent in July) is currently much higher than Switzerland’s (1.6 percent) — and has been so for a long time — the math still works in favour of cross-border workers, who are able to afford more goods and services than their compatriots who don’t earn Swiss wages.

Generally speaking, the median Swiss wage is much higher than the German one: just over 6,700 francs a month, versus €3,650 (3,480 francs).

An interesting fact is that, on average, the Swiss have more disposable income than their German counterparts, even though the cost of living in Switzerland is quite a bit higher. 

READ ALSO: Is Switzerland really 'better' than Germany?


Better working conditions

The money is, of course, a nice perk, and the main reason why foreigners flock to Switzerland.

But some of those interviewed by Spiegel also point to better working conditions they enjoy at their Swiss jobs.

One German cross-border health worker who works at a medical facility in Switzerland, noted that “financially it's great, I earn twice as much as my mother, who works in an emergency department in Germany."

But also, "the esteem for the field of care is greater in Switzerland,” she added.

“The relationship between doctors and caregivers is less hierarchical and there is less pressure. In Germany I wouldn't do this job, the conditions are too bad," she said.

“Only once in 15 years of working in Switzerland have I been reprimanded by a patient for not speaking Swiss-German!”

Plenty of healthcare workers in Switzerland commute from abroad. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP


What about cross-border workers from other countries?
For them too, the economic advantages of working in Switzerland are significant. 

With nearly 222,000 G permit holders, the French constitute the largest cross-border commuter group, followed by Italians (about 92,000).

People from Italy reap less financial benefits than their counterparts from France and Germany, because salaries in Ticino (where the majority of Italians work) are among the lowest in Switzerland — at an average of 44,600 Swiss francs a year.

However, this is still more than Italy’s median annual wage of about €35,000 (33,600 francs).

The situation is better for the French, especially those employed in high-wage areas of Geneva and Vaud.

But even commuting to Jura, where salary level is lower than the national average is worthwhile for people who live across the border in France.

As The Local reported previously, Kévin Lecoq, who lives in the French region bordering the Swiss canton of Jura, said 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.

READ ALSO : Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also