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Indian student blog Beware of exploitative part-time jobs in Switzerland

Restaurant kitchen

Gaurav found connections are important to land a part-time job.


Gaurav tries to find a job in Indian restaurants to pay the bills but is shocked when asked to work long hours for a pittance. 

I had heard that it is quite easy to find a part-time job in foreign countries and you can earn enough to cover your costs. I found that it is possible but definitely not easy, especially in Switzerland. 

It is not advisable to work while studying at a Swiss university as the course load is heavy and there is seldom enough time to do anything else. If a student here wants to work, then it must be during the holidays. During the summer holidays, I couldn't visit my family in India as flights are expensive. Instead I decided to try and find a part time job that could cover my costs for the rest of the year. 

+ Read more blog posts about student life in Switzerlandexternal link

I soon realised how hard it is. I went to all the nearby cities and major job providers but had no luck. I first thought it was because I was not fluent in French. However, a friend who is a native French speaker from Africa, was also unsuccessful in his job hunt. In my opinion, the reason for our lack of success was that we had no connections to introduce us to prospective employers. Yes, even in Switzerland connections count!

The year after, I was so broke that I had to find a job, otherwise I might not be able to finish my studies. So, I started my search again. This time I lowered my standards and decided to look for whatever odd jobs I could get. I went to many restaurants including Indian ones, but most of them said they do not have a vacancy. Finally, I found an Indian restaurant near Zurich which was willing to try me. The restaurant was an hour and a half from my lodgings. But I had little choice and went to the place for a trial day. The owner interviewed me as if I was an illegal immigrant who was asking for clandestine work. As a student I can work up to 15 hours a week, but the guy wanted me to work every day without any holidays. 

I asked him about the salary. The minimum wage in my canton of Neuchâtel is around CHF20 ($20) per hour. However, the restaurant owner told me, with great pride, that he will pay me CHF80 per day, and I have to work at least nine hours a day with three hours of break in between. Considering that commuting would take three hours, I would have to spend 15 hours a day to earn only CHF80. It seemed like exploitation to me and I declined the offer to work there. Another Indian student working in that restaurant told me that the owner actually pays more than many other Indian restaurants in the region.

A few days later, I found out that a new Indian restaurant had opened in Neuchâtel, the city I live in. The owner was willing to give me job in the kitchen but would pay me only CHF 1,500 a month for working without holidays. This was even less than the restaurant in Zurich. I couldn’t accept such terms. 

I am not saying that only Indian restaurants are like this. Many Chinese restaurants hire students on similar low wages. A Chinese classmate who was working in a Chinese restaurant in Montreux was earning only CHF100 for a full day of work. Basically, many restaurants owned by people of foreign origin (not Swiss or European) want to exploit people from their own country. Perhaps they do not make a lot of money. Or maybe they feel they do not have to pay more because they know some people do not have many choices. 

If you are planning to come to Switzerland, then come with enough funds to live a comfortable student life. Finding a part time job is not easy and there are many people that are ready to exploit you in every way possible, especially those from your own country.

For more blog posts and information on studying in Switzerland visit our dedicated page Education Swiss Madeexternal link.


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