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Zurich versus Geneva: Which Swiss city is better for job seekers?

Switzerland’s two largest cities and their surrounding areas are where most employment opportunities can be found. This is what you should know about what each of these locations has to offer.

Zurich versus Geneva: Which Swiss city is better for job seekers?
Photos: Geneva: Image by ChiemSeherin from Pixabay / Zurich: Image by Julian Hacker from Pixabay

While Zurich and Geneva are different in some regards, such as the language spoken there — Swiss-German in the former and French in the latter — the two cities also have some things in common.

For instance, both frequently feature among the most expensive cities to live in various international surveys.

The latest one, carried out by a global mobility organisation, ECA International, found that globally Geneva and Zurich were ranked in the third and seventh place, respectively, in a survey of 20 most expensive cities for international residents.

However, on the European scale, Geneva was placed in top spot and Zurich in third.

But what about their job markets? Where should you look for a job — in Zurich or Geneva?

Your search may depend on personal factors such the area where you already live (or want to live) and the language you speak.

If you are fluent in French but not so much in Swiss German (or high German), then the choice is clear (and vice-versa). Even if English may be the main language in the office, you will still heed to speak local language outside of work.

But if you are open to moving wherever good job opportunities are plentiful, regardless of language skills, which city / area should you opt for?

The Local asked Stephan Surber, Senior Partner, Page Executive – a sister company to Michael Page recruiter for some insight.

Which market is more attractive to qualified employees, and why?

“Both Geneva and Zurich provide considerable opportunities to skilled professionals”, Surber said.

However, according to the Michael Page Swiss Job Index, the number of advertised jobs in May was over nine times bigger for canton Zurich than for canton Geneva. 

Do both cities/region offer similar positions in similar industries, or are they different and if so, how?

“Both offer roles in key industries such as financial and professional services, as well as health and life sciences”, Surber said.

They typically differ from one another in the concentration of industries. For example, Geneva has a higher concentration of international NGOs such as the United Nations, the Red Cross and the World Trade Organisation, as well as commodity traders.

Zurich also has these sectors but is better known for its concentration of Swiss-based, international financial institutions such as UBS, Credit Suisse, Zurich Insurance and Swiss Re, among others.

Is there a difference in terms of salaries for the same jobs / positions in each city?

There is no significant difference for professionals, in salary and compensation levels, according to Surber.

He pointed out that salaries in all major Swiss cities are at similar levels, with differences typically occurring between major Swiss cities and smaller, regional areas, and within small to medium organisations.

Compensation levels also vary across industries and according to the level of experience and the type of role.

READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland

Demand is especially strong right now in sectors such as technology, healthcare and life sciences, as well as the private market industry.

For job seekers who are new to either city, Surber recommends building your professional network, for example by joining local chambers of commerce and / or professional associations.

These articles provide more information about finding work:

‘It’s competitive’: Essential advice for finding a job in Zurich

How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier

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MAP: The best cantons for business in Switzerland

From tax rules to staffing, airport access and education - here's the latest ranking on which areas of Switzerland are the most attractive to businesses.

MAP: The best cantons for business in Switzerland

Switzerland is undoubtedly one of the major global hubs for business – its central European location, neutrality, and connections to international organisations make it a great place to do business.

But which cantons have it better and why?

The main measure cantons can take to attract businesses is to revise their tax rules, and tax reforms over the past few years have shown results in attractiveness to companies, according to Credit Suisse’s 2022 locational quality study.

READ ALSO: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?

The lender has assessed the tax burden based on its tax indices for legal entities and private individuals to see how attractive a region may be. Corporate taxes on profit and capital as well as taxes on income and wealth for private individuals are taken into consideration.

Additionally, the Swiss bank looked into the availability of specialist labour and highly qualified personnel, basing this index on the level of education of the residents, inbound commuters and cross-border commuters of a region.

How accessible the canton is to the population, workers, and commuters was also a factor taken into consideration.

READ ALSO: Cost of living: The most – and least – expensive cantons in Switzerland

What are the most attractive cantons?

Credit Suisse attached a locational quality indicator (LQI) to each Swiss canton, with the best being +2.5 and the worst being -2.0. The map visualisation makes it clear that there is a cluster of business-friendly cantons: in German-speaking Switzerland.

Geneva, in the French-speaking region, also scores high, which is not a surprise, as the canton is home to many international organisations.

Still, the most attractive canton for business is, for the second year in a row, Zug, ahead of Basel-City, Zurich and Geneva.

Canton Aargau has suffered the most significant ranking loss, dropping two places just behind Nidwalden and Schwyz in 7th place. On the other hand, the cantons of Schaffhausen and Valais, in particular, have become more attractive, each climbing one place.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland is no longer the tax haven it used to be

Nidwalden, Zug, and Appenzell Innerrhoden are fiscally more attractive

Zug takes the overall top place for a combination of factors, but critical changes in tax policy have brought other cantons higher on the ranking - especially since tax reforms are easier to implement than measures to attract more qualified workers, for example.

Schaffhausen has reduced taxes significantly for private individuals, climbing six places in the Credit Suisse tax index for private individuals.

Also worthy of note is Schwyz, which has become more attractive for private individuals by reducing the cantonal tax multiple considerably from 150 to 120, closing the gap to first-placed Zug.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How where you live in Switzerland impacts how much income tax you pay

As part of Switzerland’s corporate tax reform, a small number of cantons have once again reduced their corporate tax rates this year.

The most considerable reductions have been observed in the cantons of Valais and Jura, each climbing one place to 20th and 22nd respectively in the tax index for legal entities, which is based on the tax burden faced by companies with varying profit situations in all Swiss municipalities.

However, a number of other cantons remain more fiscally attractive: The top places remain unchanged, with Nidwalden leading the way, just in front of Zug and Appenzell Innerrhoden.