Source: EURES The European Job Mobility Portal. For up-to-date information visit the Living and Working Conditions section about Switzerland on the EURES Portal.

How to find a job

If you are seeking employment before moving to Switzerland, we recommend that you consult the EURES advisers in your own country. If you are already in Switzerland, you can register free of charge with your local Regional Placement Office (RAV/ORP/URC).

Most vacancies in Switzerland are advertised on the internet. Various websites offer targeted jobseeking by area of activity (e.g. building, catering, healthcare services, IT, etc.). Another option is to register with a private employment agency.
The services provided by these agencies are normally free of charge for jobseekers; if you are given a contract of employment, your employer will be asked to cover the cost of the service.

In Switzerland, vacancies are very often advertised in special supplements in the main daily newspapers too. The best known supplements are: ‘Emploi&Formation’, published by Le Temps in Geneva, ‘Emploi’, published by 24Heures in Lausanne, ‘Stellefant’, published by the Basler Zeitung, ‘Stellenmarkt’, published in Bund and in the Berner Zeitung, ‘Stellen-Anzeiger’ and ‘NZZ Executive’, which appear in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and ‘Alpha’, which can be found in the Zurich-based Tages-Anzeiger and SonntagsZeitung and in the Corriere del Ticino.

 How to apply for a job

A job application in Switzerland usually comprises a covering letter, a CV including a photograph, copies of diplomas and certificates of employment. The covering letter should interest the personnel officer sufficiently to induce them to take a closer look at your application. It must be typed and should not exceed one A4 page in length. State the reasons why you are interested in the job or the company as well as the skills and experience you have to offer the company. End the letter by suggesting a personal interview.

The CV should be no longer than two A4 pages and should contain the following information (if possible in table form): full name, address, telephone number, date of birth, nationality, professional experience and any work experience obtained during your training, general education (school, higher education and vocational training), knowledge of languages, computer skills, specific aptitudes and personal interests (leisure activities, clubs, etc.). Great importance is attached in Switzerland to diplomas and certificates of employment: describe your career progression, avoiding gaps if possible, and specify the Swiss degrees or other qualifications to which your diplomas correspond.

Another way of seeking work is to submit a speculative application, contacting an employer without knowing whether a vacancy actually exists. In this case, make your covering letter as specific as possible. It should be accompanied only by your CV. Certificates of employment and diplomas should be provided only if requested or should be taken to the interview. Prospective employers will tend to disregard speculative applications in the form of standard letters.

 Finding accommodation

There are two main ways of finding accommodation in Switzerland: browsing the property advertisements published online or in local and regional newspapers on a regular basis, or contacting estate agents in the area where you wish to live (see ‘Links’).

Housing availability on the Swiss market is somewhat limited, especially in certain regions; it is therefore sometimes very difficult to find accommodation, especially in the towns and cities. You are therefore advised to start looking as soon as possible. You should also bear in mind that rents in Switzerland are relatively high compared with those in other European countries. Renting is quite a costly option in the long run, and EU nationals living in Switzerland may prefer to buy a flat or a house. However, this is also a rather costly option. To obtain a mortgage, you must put down a minimum deposit of 20%. Residential property for sale can be found in the same way as rented accommodation (through websites, newspapers or estate agents).

We also recommend that you read the ‘Accommodation’ section, which contains a great deal of practical information on terms and conditions of renting and buying, tenancy agreements, deposits payable, etc.

 Recognition of diplomas and qualifications

The importance of transparency and mutual recognition of diplomas as a crucial complement to the free movement of workers

The possibility of obtaining recognition of one’s qualifications and competences can play a vital role in the decision to take up work in another EU country. It is therefore necessary to develop a European system that will guarantee the mutual acceptance of professional competences in different Member States. Only such a system will ensure that a lack of recognition of professional qualifications will become an obstacle to workers’ mobility within the EU.

Main principles for the recognition of professional qualifications in the EU

As a basic principle, any EU citizen should be able to freely practice their profession in any Member State. Unfortunately the practical implementation of this principle is often hindered by national requirements for access to certain professions in the host country.

For the purpose of overcoming these differences, the EU has set up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications. Within the terms of this system, a distinction is made between regulated professions (professions for which certain qualifications are legally required) and professions that are not legally regulated in the host Member State.

Steps towards a transparency of qualifications in Europe

The European Union has taken important steps towards the objective of achieving transparency of qualifications in Europe:
- An increased co-operation in vocational education and training, with the intention to combine all instruments for transparency of certificates and diplomas, in one single, user-friendly tool. This includes, for example, the European CV or Europass Trainings.
- The development of concrete actions in the field of recognition and quality in vocational education and training.

Going beyond the differences in education and training systems throughout the EU

Education and training systems in the EU Member States still show substantial differences. The last enlargements of the EU, with different educational traditions, have further increased this diversity. This calls for a need to set up common rules to guarantee recognition of competences.

In order to overcome this diversity of national qualification standards, educational methods and training structures, the European Commission has put forward a series of instruments, aimed at ensuring better transparency and recognition of qualifications both for academic and professional purposes.

1.The European Qualifications Framework

The European Qualifications Framework is a key priority for the European Commission in the process of recognition of professional competences. The main objective of the framework is to create links between the different national qualification systems and guarantee a smooth transfer and recognition of diplomas.

2.The National Academic Recognition Information Centres (NARICs)

A network of National Academic Recognition Information Centres was established in 1984 at the initiative of the European Commission. The NARICs provide advice on the academic recognition of periods of study abroad. Located in all EU Member States as well as in the countries of the European Economic Area, NARICs play a vital role the process of recognition of qualifications in the EU.

3.The European Credit Transfer System (ECTS)

The European Credit Transfer System aims at facilitating the recognition of periods of study abroad. Introduced in 1989, it functions by describing an education programme and attaching credits to its components. It is a key complement to the highly acclaimed student mobility programme Erasmus.


Europass is an instrument for ensuring the transparency of professional skills. It is composed of five standardised documents

The Europass system makes skills and qualifications clearly and easily understood in the different parts of Europe. In every country of the European Union and the European Economic Area, national Europass centres have been established as the primary contact points for people seeking for information about the Europass system.

Types of employment

In Switzerland, the statutory minimum working age is 15. In some exceptional cases, however (messenger services, light work, cultural, artistic and sporting events or advertising), young people from the age of 13 may be employed.

Switzerland has various types of employment contracts. First, there are individual employment contracts, under which an employee undertakes to work for an employer in return for payment. These involve certain rights and obligations: the employee must perform the relevant work, while the employer must pay the employee’s remuneration and social security contributions, grant the employee paid holidays, etc.

Another common type of employment contract is a collective labour agreement (CLA). Based on negotiations between unions and employers, the CLA contains provisions on the conclusion, content and termination of individual employment contracts, the rights and obligations of the contracting parties, the scope of the agreement and how it is to be overseen. In addition, the authorities may draw up a standard employment contract for particular occupations. Part-time and home working (teleworking) can be regulated by all three types of contract.

For information on self-employment and au pair work, please see the relevant sections.

Switzerland has no special regulations for seasonal workers. There is no definition of seasonal work; the usual rules (labour law, collective labour agreements, etc.) governing the employment contract also apply to persons with short-term contracts.

Citizens of EU-27/EFTA member states do not require a residence permit to take up employment with a company in Switzerland for a period of up to 3 months per calendar year. Nevertheless, such employment requires an electronic notification of short-term stays. An online notification form must be submitted no later than the day before starting work.

 Employment contracts

Swiss law does not stipulate a specific form for a contract of employment.
In principle, even an oral contract is possible, but a written contract is recommended. A collective labour agreement (CLA) may stipulate the need for a written contract, while the law requires that certain types of contract (for example, apprenticeship contracts and agency-arranged temporary employment contracts) be concluded in written form.

Where an employment contract is concluded for an indefinite term or for more than 1 month, the employer must, within 1 month following the commencement of the contract, inform the employee in writing of the main contractual provisions (names of contracting parties, start date of employment contract, position of employee, remuneration, including any supplements, and weekly working hours). This obligation on the employer’s part is particularly important if there is no written contract of employment.

An employment contract must specify at least the employer’s and employee’s names, the start date of the contract, the work to be performed and the remuneration to be paid in return. Other important provisions of a contract are the probation period, which cannot exceed 3 months, and the period of notice (see section on ‘End of employment’). In addition, employment contracts must not make provision for immoral or illegal tasks.

As with any contract, the essential provisions of an existing employment contract may not be amended except by agreement between the parties. If an employer should decide to amend any essential provision of an employment contract (for example a reduction in the employee’s pay), the amendment must be submitted to the employee, who must be allowed an adequate period for reflection. If the employee fails to object during this period, the amendment is deemed to have been accepted and is adopted.

 Working time

Under Swiss law, the maximum weekly working hours for industrial workers, office staff, technicians and other employees, including the sales staff of major retailers, are set at 45 hours. The limit for all other workers is 50 hours per week. The average weekly working time in Swiss enterprises in 2018 was 41.08 hours (source: Federal Statistical Office).

The scheduling of working hours is, in principle, the responsibility of employers. Employers must, however, observe the relevant statutory requirements (rest periods, breaks, public holidays, time off at weekends, prohibition of night and Sunday working, etc.) and must consult staff with regard to work schedules, allowing as far as possible for individual needs. For more information, we recommend consulting your employer or the relevant authorities.

Overtime, defined as hours worked over and above the agreed working hours but not exceeding the statutory maximum weekly working hours, must be compensated with a premium of 25% of the normal hourly wage; alternatively, if the employee agrees, it can be compensated with time off of the same duration. Different arrangements may, however, be agreed in writing between employers and employees. Overtime in excess of the maximum weekly working time of 45 or 50 hours is governed by the provisions of the Employment Act. It must be compensated with a premium of 25% or, if the employee agrees, with time off of the same duration.

Temporary work performed at night, on Sundays or on public holidays carries an entitlement to special remuneration. For regular night work, for instance, the Employment Act provides for an obligatory 10% time credit for all employees. This cannot be converted into a pecuniary equivalent unless the person’s employment ends.

 Leave (annual leave, parental leave, etc.)

The statutory minimum annual leave is 4 weeks for employees and apprentices over the age of 20 and 5 weeks for employees and apprentices up to the age of 20. This minimum may be increased by contractual agreement. Collective labour agreements often provide for longer periods of leave, especially for employees with a specified number of years’ service and/or of a certain age. The period of leave can be reduced if employees are unable to work for a long period following a prolonged illness, a long period of unpaid leave, etc. Generally speaking, leave must be agreed for the current year of service and must include at least 2 consecutive weeks. Employees continue to receive their full pay during annual leave. Throughout the term of employment, leave entitlement cannot be converted into pecuniary compensation or other benefits.

Switzerland’s statutory public holidays are as follows: New Year’s Day (1 January), Ascension Day, Swiss National Day (1 August) and Christmas Day (25 December). All other public holidays (Easter, Whitsun, Corpus Christi, etc.) are decided on a cantonal basis, with each canton being able to decide whether or not to grant a holiday on these days. An overview of the holidays observed in each Swiss canton can be found below under ‘Related topics’. As regards sick leave, most employers require a medical certificate for any absence in excess of 3 consecutive days due to sickness. The law requires employers to continue to pay, for a limited period, employees who are unable to work due to sickness. In addition, all mothers engaged in gainful employment are entitled to paid maternity leave for 98 days (14 weeks) after the birth of their child. They receive 80% of their pay in the form of a daily allowance, subject to a ceiling of CHF 196 per day (2018). Cantonal provisions, staff regulations and collective labour agreements apply if they provide for more generous benefits.

With effect from 1 January 2021, fathers engaged in gainful employment are entitled to 2 weeks of paternity leave (a maximum of 14 working days) during the 6 months following the birth of their child. To compensate for the loss of earnings, they will receive an allowance equal to 80 % of the average income, less AVS, prior to the birth of the child, up to a maximum amount of CHF 196 per day.

Lastly, Switzerland has a number of types of leave that are guaranteed by law or by collective labour agreements. These include leave for youth workers, which provides 5 days of extra leave per year for employees and apprentices under the age of 30 who perform voluntary work with young people. Employers must also grant workers the customary days off for events such as marriage, childbirth, the death of a close relative or moving house.


Switzerland does not have a statutory minimum wage at the present time. Only certain collective labour agreements include binding provisions on remuneration. Even so, wage levels in Switzerland overall are higher than in other European countries. In 2018, the gross median wage was CHF 6 538. However, levels vary considerably from one economic sector to another. The pay calculator provided by the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB) can be used to determine age- and qualification-related pay levels in seven major regions of the country and more than 40 industries (see 'Related topics').

Wages and salaries in Switzerland are still determined on the basis of seniority. However, more and more employers in both the public and the private sector are switching to a system of performance-related pay. Women’s pay is still lower on average than men’s, regardless of qualifications.

Social security contributions deducted at source by employers in Switzerland are generally lower than in the majority of European countries. Net pay (i.e. gross pay less contributions deducted for occupational benefit schemes, unemployment, insurance, tax, etc.) is therefore higher in Switzerland than in other European countries. However, it is important to remember that the cost of living in Switzerland is also higher than in the rest of Europe. Overall, social security deductions amount to about 16% of gross pay.

Swiss nationals pay their taxes at the end of the year, while foreign employees other than holders of category C EU/EFTA permits have their tax deducted at source each month by their employer (pay as you earn). Employers pay the deducted amounts directly to the tax authorities. Tax rates vary between cantons.

 End of employment

Fixed-term employment contracts, which are concluded for a period specified by the two parties (employer and employee), end on the final day of the agreed period, without notice having to be given. If a contract is tacitly renewed after the end of the agreed period, it is deemed to have become an indefinite contract. Indefinite contracts of this kind may be terminated by either party, provided that the period of notice is observed. The party giving notice must state the reasons for this decision in writing if so required by the other party. In addition, employers and employees may agree at any time to end their employment contract. This is known as termination of employment by mutual consent (cancellation agreement).

During the probationary period, either party can terminate the contract at any time, subject to 7 days’ notice. Different arrangements may be made by means of a written agreement, a standard contract or a collective labour agreement, but the probationary period must not exceed 3 months. After the end of the probationary period, an employment contract may be terminated with effect from the end of any month, subject to 1 month’s notice in the first year of service, 2 months’ notice from the second to the ninth year of service inclusive and 3 months’ notice thereafter. These periods may be amended by a written agreement, a standard contract or a collective labour agreement.

Special provisions apply if an employment contract ends on account of retirement. The normal retirement age is 65 for men and 64 for women. Persons reaching these ages are entitled to an old-age pension (AVS). The flexible retirement system allows people to retire 1 or 2 years early or to continue working for an additional 1 to 5 years. Early retirement carries the penalty of a reduced pension for the entire period of entitlement, whereas a higher pension is payable in the event of deferred retirement. To qualify for a full pension, men must have 44 years of contributions and women must have 43 years. To supplement the old-age pension (the ‘first pillar’ of the pension system), an occupational benefit scheme (second pillar) must guarantee those insured an income equivalent to 60% of their last pensionable salary. An optional linked personal pension (third pillar) can be obtained by means of a life-insurance policy, savings plans or top-up insurance policies.

 Healthcare system

Outpatient medical care is mainly provided by doctors in private practices or in community practices and by the outpatient units of public hospitals or private clinics. Depending on the health insurance package chosen, patients are normally free to select the doctor of their choice and also have unlimited direct access to specialists. The cantons and municipalities provide a school medical service, which provides regular check-ups at state schools, monitors pupils’ immune status, administers vaccinations, etc.

Most dental care is provided by dentists in private practices and by public dental clinics. The compulsory basic insurance scheme covers only the cost of particular categories of treatment, primarily surgical measures. School dental services monitor all pupils’ dental health at various times during compulsory schooling and suggest any necessary treatment, the cost of which is normally paid by the child's family.

The provision of home medical care (Spitex) has increased considerably over the past few years. Basic insurance offers only partial cover for care at home and home help. The provision of these services is the responsibility of the municipalities, which often delegate this task to private bodies.

Around a third of the medicinal products authorised for sale are included in the list of prescription-only medicines; 90% of their cost is refunded by the compulsory basic insurance scheme. Medicines not included in the list are chargeable to the patient, or their cost may be covered by supplementary insurance; these can be obtained from any pharmacy in the country.

It should be noted that the Swiss healthcare system is very expensive. Even though the quality of care is superior to that of other countries, the cost of Swiss healthcare is second only to that of the United States.

 Incomes and taxation

Incomes vary depending on the industry, level of training and canton. The social security deductions include contributions to the old-age and survivors’ insurance schemes, invalidity, unemployment and loss-of-earnings insurance schemes, and to occupational benefit schemes, etc. They do not, however, include compulsory health insurance contributions as these are not income-dependent but vary according to the insurance company, place of residence and selected cover.

In Switzerland, income tax is levied both by the Confederation (direct federal tax) and by the cantons and municipalities (cantonal and local taxes). Since each of the 26 Swiss cantons has its own tax legislation, tax rates vary between cantons. As a rule, taxpayers must file an annual tax return.

The relevant tax factors (income and assets) and the amount of tax payable are determined on the basis of this return. Apart from income tax, which is normally deducted at source for EU and EFTA citizens, another major tax is value-added tax (VAT), which is currently (2020) charged at 7.7% and is applied to most goods and services. Other taxes levied in Switzerland include property tax, vehicle tax, the annual motorway sticker (vignette) charge and others.

 Education system

The characteristic feature of the Swiss education system is its diversity, each of the 26 cantons being responsible for all aspects of education in its territory. Lessons are taught in German, French, Italian or Romansh, depending on the language region. Language learning has traditionally been considered very important in Switzerland. During compulsory schooling, all pupils usually study two foreign languages, namely a second national language and English.

Compulsory schooling lasts for 11 years and includes a primary and a secondary cycle (secondary level I) in all cantons. Attendance is compulsory and free of charge for all children, whether Swiss or foreign. The municipalities seek to ensure that all children can attend a state school in their own locality or in the nearest town or village. The schools’ directorate of each municipality, or the municipal administration if there is no schools’ directorate, can provide information on general schooling matters, such as admissions, regulations and transport. The majority of students in Switzerland complete their compulsory education at a state school in the municipality in which they live. Roughly 5% of students attend a private school.

Post-compulsory education comprises the upper secondary level and the tertiary level.

Upper secondary level: after completing their compulsory schooling, roughly two-thirds of adolescents in Switzerland move on to vocational education and training (dual-track system). This provides them with a vocational certificate and may also lead to a vocational baccalaureate. Around one-third of adolescents opt to continue their education at an upper secondary specialised school or a baccalaureate school, which prepares them for tertiary education at a university.

Tertiary level: the tertiary level comprises universities (including universities of applied sciences and teacher training universities) and, as an important alternative, institutions providing professional education and training. The latter target people with professional experience, enabling them to gain specialist education and additional qualifications.

 Cultural and social life

Cultural life in Switzerland is characterised by the country’s diverse geography, multilingualism, religious pluralism and local customs. This is reflected in a vast diversity of literature, art, architecture and music. Cultural traditions are very much alive throughout Switzerland and vary from region to region and even from village to village. Religious holidays, events in the farming year and anniversaries of historical events are all occasions for festivities. When it comes to leisure, a glance at the culture programmes, the visitor guides and the sports directory will suffice to convince anyone of the wealth of recreational and cultural opportunities to be found in Switzerland.

 Text last edited on: 06/2021