Up to 2million individuals emigrate to Switzerland for permanent homes and temporary working opportunities every year. The majority of new arrivals have travelled from neighbouring France and Germany, however Swiss employment is becoming increasingly popular with British citizens.
Generate have almost a decade’s experience supporting over 6,000 contractors around the world. Our contractor management and payroll experts reveal everything contractors need to know about moving to Switzerland for new assignments in 2021 and beyond.
Guide to Contracting in Switzerland
1. Visas & Work Permits
Individuals from most parts of the world can travel to Switzerland for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. Although no visas or work permits are required to work in the country, individuals must apply for and be issued with a residence permit which provides permission to work. A person will be considered a resident if they remain in the country for a continuous period of more than 90 days (without working) or 30 days (with gainful activity such as employment) in any calendar year.
2. Salary & Taxes
Although cost of living is higher than in some nations, Swiss salaries and day rates rank the third highest out of all member countries in the Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The average annual salary has continued to rise since 2016, with an increase of about 2-4% every year. The country hosts some of the world’s largest and most successful employers. Numerous Fortune 500 companies are headquartered in Switzerland including Alliance Boots, Co-op, Credit Suisse, Nestle, Novartis, Swiss Re and UBS. These and most other top employers are in urgent need of highly skilled workers, which often come in the form of contract workforces, and due to labour shortages employers are willing to pay high day rates and salaries for the best skills.
To work as a self-employed person in Switzerland, individuals must prove that they have already been successfully self-employed for several years before beginning to work in the country. Self-employed people must present past invoices demonstrating their ability to run a business, receive clients and generate an income. Those with their own company must register the company through EasyGov. Similarly to the UK, self-employed workers are exempt from most of the benefits of working under another employer, for example unemployment insurance, paid sick leave or holiday allowance, although all workers regardless of status are eligible for paid maternity leave. Self-employed individuals are also responsible for paying into their own social security/pension accounts.
Individuals must pay both federal and cantonal tax, and each of Switzerland’s 26 cantons (member states) has a different tax rate. Swiss taxes are comparatively low, with the highest income tax rate in any canton reaching only 17%. Tax is calculated monthly based on gross monthly salary (including any benefits) with the actual rate determined by level of income, marital status, number of dependents, canton and – if applicable – church tax. Resident individuals in the country are taxed on their worldwide income, regardless of the source of the income.
Find out more about tax in Switzerland.
3. Employment Opportunities & Working Culture
The nation’s high employment rate ensures a prosperous economy: 80% of people aged 15 to 64 have a paid job, above the OECD employment average of 68%, and one of the highest rates amongst developed countries. Excellent work-life balance is standard across professions and levels of seniority: only 0.4% of employees work very long hours, one of the lowest rates in the OECD where the average is 11%.
Even before the pandemic, Swiss employers were already offering flexible options. Over one third (33.7%) of Swiss employers worked from home at least some of the time in 2019, with 14% regularly working remotely. In the teaching and IT professions, 60% of citizens worked from home at least once in 2019. Nearly half of all employers in the country offered flexible working hours before the pandemic, and following Covid-19, many more have committed to extending this flexibility.
Work/life balance is core to the positive, inclusive and collaborative culture of Swiss working environments. The average working week of 35.2 hours is lower than Britain’s 36.4 hours and Spain’s 38 hours, and significantly lower than 42.1 hours a week in Greece and 48.9 hours a week in Turkey. Part-time employment options, regular breaks and high salaries contribute to the positive personal and professional balance achieved by those working in Switzerland.
4. Reasons to Live and Work in Switzerland
The nation offers a wide range of experiences, benefits and places to explore:
- Quality of Life – Switzerland consistently scores amongst the top ten best countries to live in the world, and in 2020 ranked in second place in the latest Quality of Life Index. The nation ranks highly due to the personal safety and security enjoyed by residents, high disposable incomes amongst the average household, health and wellbeing, life expectancy, high standards of education, social connections, environmental quality and clean living spaces, and work-life balance.
- Diverse Culture – Located right at the centre of Europe and sandwiched between France, Germany and Italy, Switzerland enjoys the influence of a variety of different cultures. The nation has four official languages (German, French, Italian and Romansh) spoken in different regions, and diverse cultural traditions and customs such as folk art, cheese sharing and yodelling are unique to different towns and cities. Almost a quarter of the country’s population is made up of permanent expats, presenting a warm welcome for contractors moving overseas.
- Outdoor Lifestyle – As home to the highest peaks of Europe’s largest mountain range, the Alps are joined by many other mountain ranges and hillsides for hikers to view the array of scenery. Swiss landscapes incorporate lakes and picturesque villages, and skiing is a popular pastime due to more than a month of snowfall in the average year.
- Events, Entertainment and Enjoyment – Festivals, carnivals and events with live music and food are popular in the country, and unique sports challenges draw large crowds. Annual celebrations such as ancient guild processions, Halloween-esque spring festivities, farmer’s golf, the Turnip Parade and the Alpine Cow Descent will cater for every interest and appetite.
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