Switzerland boasts a small but productive economically active population. Just over five million individuals are economically active, with approximately 30 percent of that workforce comprised of foreign labor. However, Switzerland’s most qualified workers often work long hours due to the country’s difficulty recruiting qualified labor. Overtime in 2013 corresponded to 105,000 full-time equivalent positions. Increasing qualifications are only making it more difficult for Swiss companies to find the workers they need.
These employment trends are nowhere more apparent than in the financial sector, which is one of the most important for the Swiss economy. The financial sector generates 11 percent of value added in Switzerland. The financial sector also employs 5.5 percent of the total Swiss workforce. Banks lead employment within the sector, employing 105,166 full-time equivalents in 2012, while the sector as a whole employs 261,000 workers.
Banking is of immense importance to the Swiss economy. Not only does the industry offer above-average salaries for its employees, Swiss banking companies provide a considerable portion of public sector funding while also serving as centers of Swiss innovation. The banking sector accounts for six percent value added, and the sector also boasts lower unemployment than other Swiss industries (2.7 percent in 2013 compared to 3.2 percent on average). As the banking industry relies on skilled foreign workers, ensuring access to these workers should remain a priority for Switzerland.
Other than maintaining access and competitive recruiting measures for obtaining foreign skilled workers in the banking sector, Switzerland’s finance sector also faces the challenge of recovering from the 2008 global economic crisis. Banks in the country lost 350 billion Swiss francs (USD $383 billion) from foreign clients in the past six years since the recession. Most of this was due to international measures to subdue offshore tax evasion, with foreign clients withdrawing as much as 100 billion francs to pay fines to governments in their countries of residence.
Amid these changes, the Swiss financial sector also has an increasing demand for specialists. Demand for workers with specialist knowledge and training in compliance and risk management as well as treasury and finance analysis specialists has grown sharply. The average cost per worker has declined 13 percent in recent years, and though this is much less than the percentage salaries have declined in that same period, salaries of those with specialized skills, including client advisors with attractive portfolios whom banks see as long-term assets, have not seen their salaries decline. Additionally, analysts predict general wages to increase slightly in the future, with the salaries for those in compliance and risk management increasing the most as Swiss banks adapt to an increasingly competitive global market where transparency and governmental regulatory concerns are on the rise.