Covid-19 leads to record drop in Swiss employment

According to the second quarter labour statistics released on Thursday, there are 1.6% fewer people employed in Switzerland compared with this time last year. Keystone / Ennio Leanza

The latest work figures show that 85,000 fewer people are employed now than at the same time in 2019 – the biggest decline since 1993.

This content was published on August 20, 2020 - 10:28

According to the second quarter federal labour statisticsExternal link released on Thursday, there are 1.6% fewer people employed in Switzerland compared with this time last year. The drop was slightly higher for women than for men (1.7% and 1.5% respectively).

Those in partial unemployment are not classified as out of work, in the statistics. But as a result of Covid-19-driven restrictions on business activities, many people worked fewer hours. The Federal Statistical Office (FSO) said weekly hours per employed person fell by 9.5% in this period. 

If only full-time equivalents are considered, gender differences are greater. For men, the fall in the number of people who worked full-time was 0.4%, compared to 2.4% for women. 

Some 223,000 are now unemployed – that’s 17,000 more than 2019. Young people (15-24 years old) were particularly affected by the crisis: while the unemployment rate for the whole population climbed from 4.2% to 4.6%, it increased from 6.2% to 8.4% for the youth.

Between the second quarter of 2019 and the second quarter of 2020, the number of employed Swiss nationals fell by 2.4%, while the number of employed foreign nationals increased by 0.2%. However, this varies significantly according to the type of work permit; those holding a short-term (12 months) L permit saw a big drop in employment of 16.2%.

People with a long-term C permit, which often includes foreign nationals born in Switzerland, saw employment increase by 2.3%. The figure for cross-border workers also increased by 3.6%.


Kudelski is the latest Swiss company to be hit by the coronavirus crisis. In its second-quarter results released on Thursday, the digital security company based in the French-speaking part of the country said that it has relied heavily on partial unemployment.

Its number of full-time equivalent staff was down 14%, or 489 positions, compared to six months ago.

Kudelski also said in a press releaseExternal link that its half-year results were well below forecasts, with annual turnover down 20.1% to $320.1 million (CHF292.8 million).

Earlier this week Swiss retailer Manor announced plans to reduce approximately 5% of its workforce due to online competition and the effect of coronavirus on sales.

Other federal statistics also released on Thursday revealed that Swiss industry has suffered the biggest decline since 2009 due to the coronavirus crisis. Production and sales in the secondary sector, which includes construction, fell more sharply between April and June than at any time since 2009. The only exception was the pharmaceutical industry.

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