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In which jobs in Switzerland do foreign workers earn more than the Swiss?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
In which jobs in Switzerland do foreign workers earn more than the Swiss?
Foreign managers often earn more than their Swiss counterparts. Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

It is generally assumed that foreigners working in Switzerland have lower wages than Swiss nationals. But official data shows this is not always the case.

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You may have heard, or read on some forums, that Swiss companies hire foreign workers because they can pay them less.

Unfortunately, pay inequality does exist in Switzerland, but it is linked to gender rather than nationality.

But if you are a foreigner working in Switzerland legally (as the vast majority of international residents are), then you are not going to be a victim of wage dumping, that is, sub-standard pay, as the law prohibits such practices.

READ ALSO: Can my Swiss employer pay me less because I am a foreigner? 

In fact, figures released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) indicate that in some positions, foreigners earn more than the Swiss.

In its report on Wednesday, Tribune de Genève analysed FSO’s data and found that, depending on the job and industry, foreigners (including cross-border workers) have higher salaries than the Swiss.

“We observe differences depending on the fields of activity, diplomas, and regions of the country,” the newspaper reported.

Overall, Swiss employees do make more money than their foreign counterparts: their median salary is 7,563 francs a month, while those with a B permit earn 7,222 francs, C permit holders earn 7,111 francs, cross-border commuters make 6,989 francs, and those with a short-term L permit have 5,706 francs.

These are, however, general averages culled from all sectors and jobs.

But when looked at individually, we see that in certain positions, foreign employees have higher wages than their Swiss counterparts.

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In what jobs do foreigners earn more than the Swiss?

For instance, in middle and upper management, those with a B permit have highest salaries: they earn 12,791 francs a month.

Next are those with a C permit, with 11,495 a month. G permit holders — that is, cross-border workers — earn 10,707 francs.

All of them have higher wages than the Swiss, who earn 10,476 a month.

At the bottom of the scale are L permit holders, with a salary of ‘only’ 8,659 a month.

The same pattern (though with lower overall wages) can be seen among those working in lower management positions: here, C permit holders earn the most — 9,254 francs a month.

They are closely followed by B permits (9,251), with  the Swiss in the third position (8,873).

Cross-border workers and L permit holders earn 8,650 and 5,940 respectively.

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Why are foreigners sometimes better paid than the Swiss in those jobs?

“The fact that there are salary differences in certain sectors of economic activity between Swiss and foreigners is partly explained by the shortages in the labour market,” according to FSO.

Human resources specialist, Stéphane Haefliger, agrees that “it is the scarcity of skills [rather than nationality] that determines the price of the position.”

By law, Swiss workers have first dibs at all jobs.

Only when no appropriate candidates can be found among this group, do companies have the right to recruit people from the EU and EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), with third-country nationals last on this hierarchal employment scheme.

READ ALSO: Six things you need to know about salaries in Switzerland 

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