The head of the Swiss Business Federation expects companies to continue to lay off staff this year as a result of the strong Swiss franc and other factors.
Heinz Karrer, president of economiesuisse, says major firms as well as small- and medium-sized entreprises could cut thousands of jobs in Switzerland and transfer them abroad.
“I fear the process [of downsizing] has only just begun. We can’t expect to see a major economic upturn,” Karrer is quoted in the SonntagsZeitung newspaper.
He said the country’s export and tourism industry were likely to suffer most from the strong Swiss currency. A year ago Switzerland’s central bank decided to lift the cap of CHF1.20 per euro.
It is estimated that at least 9,000 jobs were cut in 2015.
The official unemployment rate could rise to 3.6% this year, according to senior officials in the economics ministry.
Karrer expressed concern about political uncertainty over a decision by voters two years ago to curb the immigration of people from the European Union, Switzerland’s main trading partner.
A growing trend towards the use of industrial robots and a digitalised economy could also speed up the outsourcing of jobs, said Karrer.
White collar workers are most likely to be hit hard by the job automation according to a widely quoted study by Britain’s renowned Oxford University, quoted in the NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.
There are currently about 330,000 people employed as office workers and accountants in Switzerland.
Erik Brynjolfsson of the Boston-based MIT School of Management is optimistic that Switzerland will cope with the expected changes.
It is a very prosperous country with a very skilled and trained population and a strong democracy, he is quoted as saying in the NZZ am Sonntag.
He also mentions as promising a controversial proposal to introduce a guaranteed minimum income for all citizens to soften the impact of job automation.
Urs Geiser, swissinfo.ch