1.500 Zurich taxi drivers lose their jobs due to new language requirements

1.500 Zurich taxi drivers lose their jobs due to new language requirements

The Zurich Taxi Association has confirmed that 1.500 drivers in the city have lost their jobs, due to new rules implemented by the local government. Taxi drivers must now have a language certification to keep operating in Zurich.

Zurich taxi drivers must speak B1 level German

Speaking to 20 Minuten, Georg Botonakis, president of the association, confirmed that since the start of 2024 taxi drivers in Canton Zurich have had to prove that they can speak German up to B1 level, as proven by a language certification. According to the Council of Europe, a B1 standard means that a person can speak “simply and coherently on familiar topics and areas of personal interest.”

The association estimated that 1.500 drivers in the city did not meet these language requirements and have subsequently had their taxi licences revoked. However, instead of outrage, Botonakis said that for those who lost their job, “It is their own fault.” 

Failure to adhere to the rules is on the drivers, say association

Botonakis explained that taxi drivers have known about the rule change for four years, so any failure to adhere to the rules is now their responsibility. While German language courses often cost hundreds if not thousands of francs, those in favour of the rule argued that a B1 standard of oral German is not difficult to achieve, especially considering that it is the official language of the canton.

Far from being against the rule, the association president said he was in favour of the change, noting that “it contributes to the quality service that distinguishes a taxi from an Uber.” Ubers do not have to adhere to the rules as technically they are classed as “limousines”, not taxis

“Due to the low barriers to entry, more people who do not speak German at B1 level will switch to the Uber service,” Botonakis predicted. When asked whether the change would make the shortage of workers at taxi firms worse, he said that  “although there is a permanent shortage of personnel in the taxi industry, it has not been exacerbated by the required language skills.”

Zurich taxis worry about a price war with Uber

However, the association president did worry that the mass shift of drivers to Uber could add to the emerging “price war” in Zurich. “The cost of an Uber ride is falling. The taxi companies, in turn, feel this,” he noted. 

While this may be good news for riders in Zurich, who have to shell out nearly 60 francs for an official taxi from the airport to the centre of town, Botonakis warned of a race to the bottom when it comes to prices as currently, most Uber drivers operate at a loss. “In the future, legislators and enforcement bodies will have to put a stop to it. Because [Uber] drivers should also be guaranteed financial survival,” he concluded.

Thumb image credit: Margitta Hamel /

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...

Read more



Leave a comment