People in Switzerland working less, but have less free time

People in Switzerland working less, but have less free time

Workers in Switzerland are spending much less time on the clock than they used to while maintaining or increasing their salary, the latest data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) has shown. However, while working hours have decreased, experts from the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute (GDI) noted that this has not translated into more free time.

Wealth in Switzerland grows as working hours fall

According to the most recent data from the FSO, people in Switzerland are spending far less time at their jobs than they used to, with workers now spending an average of 1.500 hours a year on the clock - an average of 32 hours a week with six weeks of paid leave and public holidays. In 1950, the average stood at 2.500 hours a year, meaning overall workloads have declined by 37 percent in 73 years.

This has coincided with a general increase in household income across the country. FSO data published on November 17 revealed that between 1995 and 2022, the total income of all households in Switzerland rose by 82 percent. When inflation is taken into account, this means families and individuals across the country are an average of 27,2 percent richer than in the mid-90s.

30 percent of Swiss population feel stressed due to a lack of free time

However, in the GDI study, experts noted that despite the fewer working hours and the higher pay, 30 percent of the working-age population almost always feel stressed due to a real or perceived lack of free time. Nearly two-thirds of respondents also reported that increased stress at work has become a more serious problem for them in the past five years.

The study explained that while paid working hours have declined, the amount of “unpaid work” has risen significantly - unpaid work refers to chores, cleaning, cooking, sorting out official issues and other non-relaxing unpaid tasks. Both men and women have seen the amount of unpaid work increase, to the point that the Swiss population collectively spent 9,8 billion hours on unpaid tasks in 2020 alone - in the same year, they only spent 7,6 billion hours on paid work.

Free time becoming increasingly stressful, says GDI experts

At the same time, GDI study co-author Gianluca Schiedegger told 20 Minuten that free time has become more stressful in Switzerland. “Firstly, we have more and more options for using our time, while we only have the same 24 hours per day. This means that the number of things that you cannot do in the time available is increasing. This reinforces the feeling of missing out if you don't use every minute productively. Lazing around is frowned upon.” 

At the same time, Scheidegger noted that social media is taking up an increasing amount of time in people’s lives. Finally, he made the point that “work and leisure time are increasingly merging. While working, you are expected to respond immediately to friends' WhatsApp messages. And business emails are often answered after work or on weekends.”

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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