Swiss Employers' Association calls for longer work hours and retirement at 70

Swiss Employers' Association calls for longer work hours and retirement at 70

To combat ongoing skills shortages, the Swiss Employers’ Association (SAV) has released its plan on how to fill and better support jobs in Switzerland. Among some more popular measures like boosts to childcare and higher education are plans to increase working hours and extend the retirement age to 70.

Switzerland to be short of 500.000 workers by 2030

In a statement, given to Blick, the association - which represents 100.000 businesses that employ 2 million people - argued that the shortage of skilled workers has become “the biggest brake on the Swiss economy.” While the economy in Switzerland is expected to fair better than other European countries, the SAV noted that 120.000 jobs are currently vacant at a time when older workers are entering retirement at a rate of knots. 

“Switzerland will be short of half a million workers by 2030”, they added, noting that the increase in retirees is coinciding with a drop in working hours. In fact, on average people in Switzerland work 14 days less per year than they did 10 years ago

How is the SAV planning to solve the skills shortage?

"In order to counteract the shortage of skilled workers, we have to increase the overall volume of work done and not think about any further, general reduction," noted spokesperson Daniella Lützelschwab. To get the economy back on track, the SAV proposed the following measures:

1. People in Switzerland should work more hours

First, the SAV called for people to work more hours than they currently do. This would be achieved by encouraging the companies they represent to “remove the false incentives” that make part-time work contracts more beneficial and by lobbying against any referendums that call for a shorter working week.

2. Greater access to childcare in Switzerland

The organisation noted that for parents who both want to return to work, “There is a complete lack of an offer [of childcare] in many places, and on the other hand, the existing places are too expensive." They called on the government to promote childcare facilities, making sure that "every state franc that subsidises childcare must flow into additional work or training and further education, and not into more free time."

3. Increasing the Swiss retirement age

Perhaps most controversially, the employers’ association supported the plan to increase the retirement age further in Switzerland. To make sure that there are enough workers, they recommended increasing the retirement age from 65 to 70 years old for both men and women.

4. Swiss apprenticeship should be better appreciated

Along with extending the retirement age, the SAV demanded that apprenticeships in Switzerland be held in higher regard and given more funding. They noted that not all roles need a degree from university, concluding that "the promotion of talent in vocational training should become even more visible."

5. University courses based on practicality, not interest

The organisation also said the authorities should try to deter students in Switzerland from picking a university course based on “interest”, not practicality. They called for stricter rules around student counselling and amortising tuition fees and scholarships to help prevent dropouts.

6. More relaxed rules around working hours

In direct response to current regulations, the association said that rules around working hours should be relaxed. "This also includes relaxing the strict working time regulations so that, for example, working parents can also finish their work in the evening - outside normal office hours - after they have spent time with their children", they explained.

7. Better psychological help for Swiss workers

At the same time, the SAV also called for there to be more support measures in place to combat “psychological and physical” limitations that could force workers to leave the workplace. The organisation said that these measures should be tailored towards encouraging people to get back to work.

8. Switzerland should rely on immigration

Finally, the association argued that while Swiss citizens could be better utilised and employed in the workplace, the country's economy will inevitably have to rely on new expats and internationals claiming residence permits to work in the country. Therefore, they called on the government to continue to allow “labour market-driven” immigration in the future.

SAV plan heavily criticised by Swiss labour unions

Needless to say, the SAV plan has not gone down well with workers' rights organisations, with the Swiss Confederation of Trade Unions (SGB) telling Blick that through the measures, “Employers want to turn back the clock.” They made the point that further flexibility in working hours would not make jobs more appealing but lead to more stress and burnout.

The spokesperson added that while the government should support childcare initiatives, the rest of the plan is “not exactly conducive to making jobs more attractive.” They concluded that the only way to make employment more appealing is to raise salaries - something the organisation says is long overdue.

Want to learn more about the employers’ association’s plan? Check out the official website (in German).

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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