By international standards, unemployment payments are generous in Switzerland – typically 70% of salary. But they come with strict requirements for recipients to show they are engaging in actions deemed necessary to find work. With record numbers of unfilled jobs, pressure is now being put on some to change career, reported RTS.
According to one report, there are more than 100,000 unfilled jobs in Switzerland. At the same time by the end of December 2022 there were around 96,941 unemployed (registered job seekers), a number that rises higher when calculated based on the International Labour Organisation definition of unemployment – 212,000 (Q3 2022).
There are many reasons why job vacancies and unemployment might coexist. One is frictional unemployment – the time it takes to finish one job and start another creates a natural gap, another is geographical and linguistic mismatches – a vacancy in Zurich may not suit someone living in Geneva. Discrimination, especially age-based, is another problem.
However, there is also a mismatch between the skills and career preferences of job seekers and the skills sought by employers. Domains experiencing severe worker shortages currently include healthcare, hospitality and electrical services. In this context official placement offices, the agencies that process unemployment payments and assist with job placements, are reportedly pressuring some of those registered with them to consider changing their domain of employment. And in certain cases the practice is allowed.
After two unsuccessful years of job hunting, an unemployed beautician in Lausanne was offered the possibility of training for a position in healthcare by the local placement office, reported RTS. Initially the woman said she wasn’t interested. But over time she found it harder to say no. Frequent refusal can be viewed as uncooperative and lead to sanctions, she said. Ultimately, those who fail to satisfy placement office rules risk losing unemployment insurance payments.
The legal situation is not straight forward. In principle someone covered by unemployment insurance must accept work job offered to them with a number of exceptions, such as pay that is not commensurate with the job, a work location too far from home or other conditions considered unsuitable. But what is deemed unsuitable by a jobseeker may differ from the definition of the placement office.
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Salary is the most important factor. Cost of living in Switzerland is very high but companies in Switzerland can hire workers from any European country. As a consequence, salaries are adapted to people who don’t need to bear the Swiss cost of living long term. As a consequence, for those of us born here and intending to spend our lives here (including retirement), salaries are completely insufficient.