Switzerland will need ‘half a million extra workers in 10 years but immigration is not the only answer’

A lack of workers resulting from the number of baby-boomers retiring and structural change to the labour market means Switzerland will have half a million job vacancies in a decade's time, according to a forecast by UBS. But immigration shouldn't be the only answer to the shortfall, the report says.

Switzerland will need 'half a million extra workers in 10 years but immigration is not the only answer'
Photo: AFP

“Switzerland will need up to half a million more workers in the next decade – but not every worker is equally sought after.

“Demand is high in the health and care sectors, whereas employment will stagnate in many other industries,” says the forecast by UBS.

Switzerland says the need for a potential 500,000 workers will come from baby-boomers retiring and structural changes to the labour market.

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

The report, based on long-term employment statistics reads: “UBS economists expect the labour force to grow by only 200,000 in the next ten years, even with a net immigration of 60,000 people per year.

“That is far from enough to cover the expected demand for workers. If employment growth continues as it has since 1960, Switzerland will have a shortfall of over 300,000 workers in the coming ten years. If demand remains the same as in the last 15 years, that figure will be 500,000.”

UBS says that not all sectors will need workers, however, and that the jobs boom “is primarily taking place in sectors in which predominantly women are currently employed” such as the health and care sectors.

“In future, men will increasingly have to try their hand at traditionally female occupations,” it reads.

UBS believes the worker shortage shouldn't just be met by immigration alone, which would meet large-scale “social and political resistance”.

Read also: Switzerland named world's best destination for expats

The report says: “In the next ten years, Switzerland would need net annual immigration amounting to more than 100,000 people to meet the demands of the labor market with growth in employment of 1% per year.

“Immigration of this magnitude would, however, meet considerable political and social resistance, which may also place a strain on the relationship with the EU. 

“For that reason, immigration should not be the first and only option for the recruitment of additional workers,” the forecast reads.

UBS says that other approaches to expanding the workforce need to be looked at including greater integration of the unemployed, a more flexible retirement age and a (further) increase in the participation of women in the labor market.

“If not through immigration, then the labour force could be enlarged by means of a higher participation rate. In fact, 80 percent of women are already in the labour market, although 45 percent of them are working part time, the report writes.

“Particularly in the case of women whose children are no longer at school, the opportunity to increase their working hours further and hence to play a bigger part in the labour market may be attractive.”

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Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Switzerland has made reciprocal agreements regarding working holiday visas with several countries. Here's what you need to know.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

Over the past few decades, countries around the globe have rolled out ‘working holiday visa’ agreements.

These visa schemes, largely targeted at young people, allow people to work and live in a particular country, usually for a set period of time and pursuant to certain conditions.

In recent years, Switzerland has expanded its own form of a ‘working holiday visa’, although there are some important differences to be aware of.

Unlike some of the better known schemes like those in place in Australia, applicants are discouraged from moving around and are generally required to stay with the one employer for the duration.

The goal of the visa scheme is to allow applicants to “expand their occupational and linguistic skills in Switzerland”.

The visa scheme runs for 18 months and cannot be extended.

Which countries does Switzerland have working holiday visa agreements with?

The agreements are made between countries, meaning your fate will depend on whether your government has at some point struck a deal with Switzerland.

EXPLAINED: What’s the difference between permanent residence and Swiss citizenship?

If you are from the European Union or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), then you will be able to live and work in Switzerland as is – and will not need to go through this process.

If you come from outside the EU, you will only be able to apply for this visa if you are a citizen of the following countries:

Australia, Argentina, Canada, Chile, Indonesia, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States.

What does ‘reciprocal’ mean in this context? 

Where these agreements have been struck, they have entitled citizens of both countries to certain rights and permissions in the other country. 

However, while these arrangements might be reciprocal, they are not identical. 

For instance, while citizens of Australia can enter Switzerland and work, the rules for Swiss citizens in Australia are significantly different. 

Therefore, if considering each program, be sure to study all of the relevant details as these will change from country to country and from agreement to agreement. 

More information is available at the following link. 

EXPLAINED: How to get a working holiday visa in Switzerland