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Female part-timers in the driving seat

Four out of five part-time workers in Switzerland are women


A government report into part-time work has confirmed the flexibility of the Swiss labour market and the importance of female part-timers.

According to the Federal Statistics Office study, Switzerland has the second-highest percentage of part-time workers in Europe – 32 per cent – four out of five of whom are women.

"Women working part-time are one of the driving forces behind the Swiss economy," confirmed George Sheldon, a professor at Basel University. "A dormant factor has become active, contributing to Switzerland's success."

Sheldon told swissinfo that since 1990 the number of women – especially Swiss – participating in the labour market has increased immensely and 56.7 per cent of employed women now work part time.

Furthermore, four out of five part-timers are women. Last year 495,000 women were working part time compared with 26,000 men – 11 per cent of the labour market.


Between 1991 and 2005, the number of people working part time in Switzerland jumped by 31.6 per cent. At the same time, figures for full-time workers fell by 3.4 per cent.

"In Switzerland most part-time work is menial, but the big increase over the last 15 years has been in the service sector, as well as in higher-skilled jobs," said Sheldon.

Swiss women are now better educated and more highly skilled, and to tap into that potential firms have to provide more part-time jobs, he said, adding that information technology has done a great deal to increase women's chances of working part time at home.

"And there has been a knock-on effect at work: the more part-time work that is offered, the more it seems to be readily taken up. Firms have then had to reorganise themselves accordingly."

Sheldon explained that as more women work, the demand for other part-time work such as domestic services rises.


The reasons for going part-time are varied. But not surprisingly in Switzerland, like most other countries, the main motivation for working fewer hours remains the ability to combine raising a family and a career.

The next most important factor is training. More people are reducing their hours to sign up for training to get additional qualifications – a 42 per cent increase since 1991.

The report also highlights a downside to the part-time trend.

According to the Federal Statistics Office, growing numbers of people have to accept part-time work as they are unable to find a full-time position. The figures rose from 11,000 in 1991 to 78,000 in 2005.

swissinfo, Simon Bradley with agencies

In brief

In Switzerland 75% of the male population and 59% of the female population aged 15 or over are in gainful employment.

Women generally hold less important positions to men and are often less well paid. Differences in salary range from 10% in the public sector to 20% in the private sector.

Worldwide, women hold 20-40% of managerial positions.

Nordic countries have imposed a quota system to increase the number of female directors to 40%.

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Key facts

Percentage of part-time workers:
Netherlands: 46.2%
Switzerland: 31.7%
Norway: 28.5%
Britain: 25.7%
Sweden: 25%
Germany: 24.1%
Hungary: 4.4%
Slovakia: 2.4%

end of infobox


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