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Should Switzerland implement a four-day work week?

Belgium has implemented a four-day work week. Could a similar system work in Switzerland?

Would you be in favour of a four-day work week in Switzerland? Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
Would you be in favour of a four-day work week in Switzerland? Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

The move towards flexible work hours and conditions, i.e. working from home, was accelerated by the Covid pandemic. 

After years of talk, Belgium has put in place a right to a four-day work week. 

The law was passed on Friday and will soon come into effect. In making the announcement, Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said it would allow Belgians to decide whether they wanted to have three days off per week or the existing two. 

The law does not however result in a net decrease in working hours. People will instead work longer hours over the other four days, thereby allowing them to take a day off. 

Would such a change work in Switzerland? 

The idea has won support in Switzerland, with politicians from various parties saying workplace hours should reflect contemporary conditions. 

Samira Marti, of the National Council, told 20 Minutes “movement in this direction is definitely needed in Switzerland”. 

Marti however said she disagreed with the Belgian proposal, saying “working hours need to be reduced” rather than distributed over fewer days. 

While improvements in technology and production led to shorter working hours in previous generations, Marti said at present they mostly go to investors. 

“That needs to change”. 

Regula Rytz, of the Greens, agreed, saying many of the benefits of a change in work hours would be eroded if the hours were simply worked on different days. 

“Without reducing working hours, the four-day week leads to stress and overload. More flexible models are needed so that wage work can be better combined with family and volunteer work.”

“The advance in productivity must finally lead to a relief for employees.”

‘Questionable’: Psychologists doubt if scheme is truly beneficial

Nicola Jacobshagen, a work psychologist, told Swiss news outlet 20 Minutes it was not clear the change would actually benefit employers. 

“If the working day is two hours longer, we have to concentrate on our work even longer and there is no time to relax after work, which is incredibly important. It is questionable whether we can keep it going four days a week,” she said. 

Swiss economists have also been critical of the Belgian plan, saying businesses rather than the state should make decisions regarding working hours. 

“Companies must be able to decide for themselves when their employees are more productive, that’s not the job of the state,” said economist Reiner Eichenberger. 

Would you be in favour of a four-day work week? What if it meant working longer hours on those days? Let us know. 

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How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

With a strong and resilient job market, Zurich is a major destination for international workers. But how important is speaking German - and can you get by if you only speak English?

A woman drinks a cup of tea while looking at her laptop
Are you looking for work in Zurich? Here's what you need to know. Photo by Dai KE on Unsplash

Living and working in Zurich offers many draw cards from high salaries, a favourable work-life balance and international working environment.

In addition to the economic power of the city, which contributes an estimated 20 percent of the overall Swiss GDP, Zurich has additional permits available to attract foreign workers. 

‘It’s competitive’: Essential advice for how to find a job in Zurich

But how important is speaking German – or indeed any Swiss language – when working in Zurich? 

Can you get by in Zurich without speaking German? 

The greater Zurich metropolitan area includes an estimated 1.6 million people, making it one of the largest German-speaking cities in the world. 

However, with half of population of the city’s urban area foreign, Zurich has an International feel. 

Indeed, it is not unusual to be asked to order in English at bars, cafes and restaurants in central areas of the city, due to the influx of foreign workers in the hospitality industry. 

Given the prevalence of English and English-speaking workers in the city, it is certainly possible to get by if you only speak English in Zurich. 

In addition to ordering in English, officials such as police officers and administrative staff at the town hall will also speak English or at least be able to direct you to someone who does. 

The same goes for private entities such as insurance companies, as well as utility companies for gas and electricity. 

Many official communications such as those from the cantonal government are also made in English. 

Can you work in Zurich without speaking German? 

Of course, the main element here is what industry you work in. English teachers will find it easier to get by in Zurich without German than emergency room nurses. 

Nikolaus Schönecker, Senior Team Lead at Hays in Zurich specialises in filling permanent roles in the IT sector. 

“The amount of roles not requiring German or Swiss German is increasing, since many companies are realising this is the only way to challenge the shortage of experts,” he says. Nevertheless, having even rudimentary language skills can set you apart from other foreign candidates.

Working remotely from Switzerland: What are the rules for foreigners?

“Show your willingness to learn German. If you aim to be able to follow business meetings in German at a B1 level and reply in English, the barriers will be lower.” 

Stephan Surber, Senior Partner at Page Executive Switzerland, advises job-hunters to connect with the local expat community as well as country-related networking organisations such as the Chambers of Commerce. 

Most of these groups including AmCham, Swiss-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the Swedish-Swiss Chamber of Commerce also publish a list of its members online, which may be a good guide to finding international firms based in Zurich. 

He also suggests jobseekers to target expert networks such as the CFA or ACCA community for financial analysts and accountants. 

EXPLAINED: Which Swiss cantons have a minimum wage?

There are many English-language job portals on hand such as jobsinzurich.com, LinkedIn and The Local’s own search engine. But experts we spoke to said that recruitment agencies or headhunters could prove useful in finding hidden opportunities that are not yet on the market.

They can also provide feedback on interviews and ask their clients questions that a direct candidate would not usually get to ask. 

And if you eventually find yourself across an interviewer, aim to be modest and genuine. “Although self-confidence can surely help in most jobs, most Swiss people dislike bragging and overstating,” reminds Schönecker. “So try to show your best side in a realistic way.” 

What do the Local’s readers say? 

In January, 2022, The Local asked its readers about finding work in Zurich – with the importance of English a major factor. 

Generally speaking, the reader responses reflect those of the experts – that speaking German can be crucial at times, but is not necessary. 

Two thirds (66.67%) of the 30 respondents told us it was “very important” to speak German/Swiss German to find a job in Zurich. 

Just under a third said it was “beneficial but not necessary” while one respondent said it was “unimportant”. 

Have you found work in Zurich without speaking German? Or have you not? Get in touch with us at [email protected]. 

How do I find an English-speaking job in Switzerland? 

Other than contacting companies and organisations directly, you can go through a recruitment agencies such as Adecco or Manpower. If they find you a job you will not have to pay anything; the employer will be charged for their services.

There are other resources as well where you can do your own search.

First and foremost is The Local’s own search engine where industries are listed by categories.

Other resources include Jobs.ch and Glassdoor.

A more in-depth summary of how to find English-speaking work in Switzerland is available here. 

READ MORE: How to find English language jobs in Switzerland

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