One in eight workers in Switzerland are ‘low-income earners’

A total of 12 percent of full-time employees in Switzerland had an income of less than 4,335 Swiss francs (€3,900) a month in 2016, making them low-income earners, according to new figures from the Swiss Federal Statistics Office (FSO).

One in eight workers in Switzerland are 'low-income earners'
Swiss streets are not paved with gold. File photo: Depositphotos

While that percentage is slightly down from the 12.8 percent figure clocked up in 2008, there were still 473,000 people working in so-called low-paid jobs in the expensive Alpine nation in 2016.

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

The FSO classifies all jobs where people work full time and earn less than two thirds of the median Swiss salary as ‘low income’. In 2016, the cut-off was 4,335 francs.

The sectors with the highest percentage of low-paying jobs were retail and hospitality (including gastronomy and accommodation).

Women (17 percent) were more than twice as likely as men (7.2 percent) to have low-income salaries.

Foreigners make up majority of low-income earners

Foreigners also made a huge proportion of this group, occupying 53.8 percent of all low-paid jobs in the country in 2016 although they made up just 32.9 percent of the total workforce.

A total of 19.1 percent of foreign workers in Switzerland were low-income earners, compared to 8.9 percent of people with a Swiss passport.

However, another recent set of Swiss government figures suggested there was little difference between the wages of foreign workers in Switzerland and the resident population.

That study into the impact of the Swiss–EU freedom of movement treaty on Switzerland also revealed that some groups of foreign workers actually earn more than Swiss citizens and the country’s permanent residents.

Read also: Confirmed – Swiss companies can still hire Brits after no-deal Brexit

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How long can a foreigner stay in Switzerland after losing a job?

If you're employed in Switzerland but lose your job, can you remain in the country while looking for new work? The answer depends on several factors.

How long can a foreigner stay in Switzerland after losing a job?

Becoming unemployed is a huge stress for anyone, but it could be even more of a challenge for foreign nationals.

First things first: as The Local recently reported, foreigners who had been working in Switzerland for at least 12 months in the last two years and have been living in the country full time during that period, have the right to collect unemployment benefits:

Which foreign workers are entitled to unemployment benefits in Switzerland?

But how long can you remain in the country after losing your job?

This depends on the kind of permit and passport you have.

If you are a foreigner (of any nationality) who lives in Switzerland with a valid C permit, you are subject to the same rules as Swiss citizens who are looking for employment — which means you can stay here indefinitely, as long as you don’t leave the country in the meantime for more than six months.
If you do leave for an extended period of time without ‘freezing’ your C permit first (see below), you will lose your residency rights and won’t be able to remain in the country indefinitely while looking for a new job.

READ ALSO: How long can I stay out of Switzerland and keep my residency rights? 

More restrictions apply to other permit holders.

If you have a B residency permit and are a national of an EU / EFTA state, you may stay in Switzerland for at least six months to seek new employment, according to State Secretariat for Migration.  

However, you will have to apply for a permit as a job-seeker with the cantonal migration authorities while you are looking for a new position. 

What about non-EU nationals?

Unless they have received a C permit and permanent residency status, foreigners from outside the EU / EFTA face stricter rules if they lose their Swiss jobs.

Third-country nationals face more restrictions because their work permits (B or L) are tied to their job, so becoming unemployed would automatically mean losing a permit as well.

Given that work permits for third-country nationals are subject to strict criteria and quota system, finding an employer willing to hire you at short notice would be very difficult  — unless you have some specific skills that are in high demand and that can’t be found among the Swiss or EU / EFTA workforce.

If that is your case, your only option is to return to your country of origin and start the job-seeking process from scratch.

READ ALSO: What are your chances of getting a job in Switzerland from abroad?

This also concerns UK citizens: while those who received their permits and started working in Switzerland before January 1st, 2021 fall under the same rules as their EU counterparts, any post-Brexit job-seekers from Britain must follow the same steps as third-country nationals.