Which job sectors in Switzerland employ the most foreign workers?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Which job sectors in Switzerland employ the most foreign workers?
High-level executives and other professionals usually come from third countries. Photo by Hunters Race on Unsplash

Just over 1.12 million foreigners are currently employed in Switzerland. Which sectors and jobs need these workers the most?


For many employers in Switzerland, finding qualified personnel has become increasingly difficult in the past few years. 

But while the number of vacancies is high in many sectors, suitable candidates can't always be easily found among Switzerland’s workforce.

That is why many companies are recruiting  candidates from abroad — most often from the European Union and EFTA states (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtensein), as getting work permits for this group of foreigners is fairly easy in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: Just how freely can EU citizens move to (and within) Switzerland?

However, as government data indicates, Switzerland’s labour market also needs specialists from third countries – primarily from the United States and the UK.

Until 2022, when a number of anti-Putin sanctions went into effect in Switzerland, highly qualified workers from Russia were also sought-after.

What jobs are most dependant on foreign workers?

Generally speaking, sectors such as IT, healthcare, construction, hotels and restaurants, retail, and service industries rely heavily on workers from abroad — both cross-border commuters and resident foreigners.

However, much also depends on the employee’s education and sills level, according to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

And this is where third-country nationals seem to have an edge over their EU/EFTA counterparts.

For instance, for jobs that require university degrees, employers often recruit from the United States (92.5 percent) and the United Kingdom (80.4 percent), in addition to the Netherlands (76.3 percent), and Greece (72.7 percent).

(Prior to 2022, recruitment rate from Russia was also very high).


“A high level of training often goes hand in hand with a highly qualified profession, such as as directors, executives and managers, intellectual and scientific professions,” the FSO said.

These "highly qualified professions" are most represented among people from the United States (88.6 percent), United Kingdom (83.6 percent), the Netherlands (80.8 percent), and  — before the invasion — from Russia (76.7 percent).

When it comes to managerial positions, the highest proportion of employees come from the United Kingdom (44.3 percent), followed by those from the United States (38.8 percent)

High rates (around a third) are also recruited from some EU countries : the Netherlands and Greece (35.9 percent each), as well as from neighbour nations: 35.5 percent from Germany; 34.8 percent from France; and 33.1 percent from Austria.


What about ‘lower’ jobs?

For work that involves sales, cleaning services, maintenance work, and other jobs where no special skills or education are required, people from Sri Lanka (47.5 percent) and Eritrea (37.5 percent) are hired the most, according to FSO.

They are followed by people from North Macedonia (28.3 percent), Kosovo (24.4 percent), Brazil (23.7 percent), Portugal (21.2 percent) and Serbia (20.9 percent).

Only 3.3 percent of Swiss nationals are willing to perform these jobs.

And what about work permits?

As you have noticed, many employers depend on workers from outside the EU/EFTA (like the US and the UK) to fill high-paying jobs.

Yet, work permits for third-country nationals are scarce and difficult to obtain.

But ‘difficult’ doesn’t mean 'impossible' — as long as they fulfil a number of conditions.

For instance, they must be a highly qualified specialist or skilled professional in their field. This means they should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.

Additionally, they can be hired only if the employer can prove to the authorities that no suitable Swiss or EU/EFTA candidate could be found to fill the vacant position.

READ ALSO:  How can non-EU nationals apply for a Swiss work visa?


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