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QUALITY OF LIFE

Switzerland named ‘world’s best destination for expats’

Switzerland has been named the best place to live and work overseas in the latest HSBC Expat Explorer report. But there is a catch (or two).

Switzerland named 'world’s best destination for expats’
Photo: Zurich Tourism

The Alpine country offers “the complete expat package” with improved quality of life alongside excellent salaries and “swift career progression”, according to the report which ranks 33 countries globally and is based on interviews with just over 18,000 people in 163 locations.

Spain was ranked fourth in the overall rankings, for very different reasons. Germany was ranked eighth while France was 17th.

A total of 82 percent of survey respondents based in Switzerland said their life had improved since moving to the country while 67 percent of people said they felt safer in Switzerland than in their home country.

Read also: The REAL reasons why Switzerland is the best country in the world

There were also very high levels of satisfaction with the country’s political and economic stability.

Top for incomes

The HSBC Expat Explorer breaks down its findings into three different categories: ‘living’, ‘aspiring’ (which refers to finances and career prospects) and ‘little expats’ – or family life and education.

Switzerland ranks relatively highly in all three categories, coming seventh overall for living and fourth for children and family life.

But it is in the realm of incomes that the country excels. Expats, or immigrants as many foreigners prefer to be called, earn an average $111,587 in Switzerland, against a global average of $75,966, according to HSBC.

Read also: Revealed – How much foreign workers in Switzerland earn

That sees Switzerland score top for salaries, while it comes second for disposable incomes behind the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

However, Switzerland does less well on metrics such as career progression (15th place) and work–life balance, where it comes 16th.

The table below shows the overall ranking.

The Swiss paradox

The relatively low score for work-life balance among foreign employees in Switzerland highlights a paradox about the country’s ratings in the HSBC survey.

While Switzerland rates high for incomes and quality of life (second), it does not score well for “reaching potential” in one’s job (16th) or the lifestyle metric of “fulfilment”.

And, as in previous years, Switzerland continues to rate poorly in factors related to social life.

For “ease of settling in”, Switzerland comes a lowly 24th and Swiss society is also marked very low in terms of ‘cultural, open and welcoming communities’ where it finished 28th.

Singapore knocked off its perch

By taking the top spot in the latest HSBC ranking, Switzerland stripped serial top-place getter Singapore of its crown. Singapore moved down to second, Canada was third, Spain fourth and New Zealand fifth.

Read also: Three Swiss cities named Europe’s priciest for foreign workers

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For members

WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Reader question: How can I find out if my Swiss employer is underpaying me?

Wages in Switzerland are generally higher than almost everywhere else in Europe. But how can you know if you are being paid enough — and what can you do if you are not?

Reader question: How can I find out if my Swiss employer is underpaying me?

Obviously, some jobs and industries pay more (or less) than others, so your salary will be based on a general pay scale for your specific position within that sector.

It is also determined by other factors, such as your education, skills, experience, length of employment, and the canton / city where you work.

For instance, if you work in Zurich, Geneva, or Basel, you are likely to earn more than someone employed in a similar job in a small town or rural area.

Based on all these variables, your pay may very well be lower — or higher — than that of other employees in your company or sector.

However, regardless of where in Switzerland you work, there are ways to find out whether you are being compensated sufficiently for the kind of work and position you have, or whether your salary is lower than normal for your industry (a practice known as “wage dumping”).

Swiss labour practices

While some employers have been accused of wage dumping, this is not a widespread practice in Switzerland, and is predominantly limited to small companies that subcontract work.

The country has strong labour laws which protect workers in terms of wages, work conditions, and other employment-related rights.

In addition to the basic rules and conditions outlined in this legislation, many employees are also covered by the collective bargaining agreement (CLA), a kind of contract that is negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers.

Generally speaking, they cover a minimum wage for each type of work; regulations relating to work hours; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

CLAs are sector-specific; in other words, they take into account the particular aspects of each branch. As an example, Switzerland’s largest labour union, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (UNIA), maintains 265 collective agreements in the areas of industry and construction.

READ  MORE: What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?

So if your company and employees are covered by a CLA, you can be sure that you are getting a fair wage — and that your other rights are protected as well.

What if your company has not concluded a CLA?

In this case, you are still protected by the above-mentioned labour legislation, which ensures that your welfare and rights are being respected.

You will also sign an employment contract with your company, which outlines your salary, rights and obligations, as well as everything your employer can and cannot do, or expect from you.

According to a government site, “in professional sectors that do not have a collective employment agreement, the federal or cantonal authorities can establish a standard employment contract …The employer can only modify these conditions to offer better terms for employees.”

Due diligence

If you want to know what a standard wage is for your type of job and industry you can do so by checking out the wage calculator created by UNIA. 

It is programmed with the latest salary levels from 72 different industry sectors and 36,000 companies in Switzerland, so it will give you a good indication of what a fair wage is in your case.

If the pay your employer is offering you is below the industry standard, you have the option of not accepting the job.

In case you are already working and realise your employer is short-changing you — especially based on your nationality, race, gender or disability — there are some options open to you, all of which are outlined on this government site

If a court or another official body decides the employer was paying you unfairly, the company will have to repay the wage difference.

READ MORE: How much do you need to earn in your Swiss canton to be well off?

 
 
 

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