Why Switzerland needs workers from abroad

Expats’ love-hate relationship with Switzerland continues

99% of respondents were happy with Switzerland's natural environment (1% of people are obviously hard to please). Here, a woman goes for a dip in the River Verzasca in canton Ticino. Ti-press

Foreign workers still love Switzerland’s quality of life but still hate how hard it is to settle in and make friends, according to an annual survey. The Covid-19 pandemic has had a relatively small impact on their lives, compared with the lives of expats in other countries.

This content was published on May 18, 2021 - 09:00

Switzerland came 30th out of 59 destinations, sandwiched between Ireland and Indonesia, says the Expat Insider 2021External link survey, published on Tuesday. This is down four places on last year. But as InterNations (the company that carried out the survey) points out, Covid-19 might have “significantly influenced” the results for 2020 and 2021.

The pros…

Switzerland performs best in the Quality of Life Index (9th). Nearly all expats (99%) are happy with the natural environment (vs 84% globally), ranking Switzerland second worldwide for this factor – just after New Zealand – and fourth in the Quality of Environment subcategory. In addition, 95% highly rate Switzerland’s water and sanitation (vs 77% globally), and another 89% are happy with the air quality (vs 66% globally).

The majority of expats in Switzerland are also satisfied with the country’s peacefulness (95% vs 80% globally) and its political stability (91% vs 64% globally). Another 94% are happy with their travel opportunities (vs 84% globally), and 96% rate the transportation infrastructure positively (vs 76% globally). This leads to a second place for Switzerland in the Travel & Transportation subcategory, behind neighbouring Austria.

In terms of the quality of life, there are only two downsides: 26% of respondents are not satisfied with their socialising and leisure activities (vs 18% globally), and only 34% rate the affordability of healthcare positively (vs 61% globally).

Winners and losers 2021

Top 5
Taiwan (1)
Costa Rica

Bottom 5
South Africa
Kuwait (59)

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Switzerland also performs well in the Working Abroad Index (18th), with an especially high share of expats (85%) viewing the state of the local economy positively (vs 62% globally).

An above-average proportion of respondents in Switzerland currently work full or part time (74% vs 67% globally). “I like the security, the beautiful environment, the freedom, and the work opportunities in Switzerland,” said a Brazilian expat.

…and the cons

However, while Switzerland ranks 20th in the Personal Finance Index, it is among the worst destinations worldwide in the Cost of Living Index (58th): only Hong Kong fares worse. In fact, 65% of expats are dissatisfied with the cost of living (vs 34% globally).

The country’s results in the Ease of Settling In Index (52nd) aren’t much better: 28% of expats don’t feel at home in the local culture (vs 20% globally), and another 28% find it difficult to get used to (vs 18% globally).

What’s more, 61% of expats don’t find it easy to make local friends (vs 36% globally), and 32% are dissatisfied with the general friendliness towards foreign residents (vs 18% globally). More than half the respondents in Switzerland (52%) are mostly friends with other expats – a high share compared with the global average (32%).

Covid effect

While the pandemic has changed the plans of 37% of survey respondents on a global scale, it has only had an impact on 20% in Switzerland. However, one in three expats in Switzerland (33%) says the pandemic mostly affects their social life, followed by personal travel (30%), and their work or business (10%).

Few have noticed an impact on their general health (2%), personal finances (4%) or mental health (6%).

The proportion of expats in Switzerland using official government channels as sources of information on Covid-19 and related regulations (61%) is higher than the global average (48%). Most respondents (71%) says they are satisfied with the official communication regarding Covid-19 (vs 66% globally).

The InterNations Expat Insider 2021 Survey

For its annual Expat Insider survey, InterNations asked 12,420 expats representing 174 nationalities and living in 59 countries or territories to provide information on various aspects of expat life, as well as their gender, age and nationality.

Participants were asked to rate up to 37 different aspects of life abroad on a scale of one to seven. The rating process emphasised the respondents’ personal satisfaction with these aspects, considering both emotional topics and more factual aspects with equal weight.

The respondents’ ratings of the individual factors were then bundled in various combinations for a total of 13 subcategories, and their mean values were used to draw up five topical indices: Quality of Life, Ease of Settling In, Working Abroad, Personal Finance, and Cost of Living. The first four of these indices were further averaged together with expats’ general satisfaction with their life in order to rank 59 expat destinations around the world.

For a country to be featured in the indices and consequently in the overall ranking, a sample size of at least 50 survey participants per destination was necessary.

(Source: InterNations)

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