More people in Switzerland are active in the employment market than anywhere in Europe, bar Iceland, and the country has the highest percentage of women in part-time work.
A government study also showed that the Swiss are Europe’s biggest earners, but their buying power is limited by the high cost of living.
Although the Swiss take home more money than any of their European counterparts, they are ranked only seventh in terms of purchasing power.
The international labour market comparison, which was released on Wednesday, was based on data gathered before the European Union’s recent expansion from 15 to 25 countries.
It also includes the European Free Trade Association (Efta) countries - Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - which are not EU members.
The study by the Federal Statistics Office showed that, on average, 70 per cent of EU citizens aged 15 to 64 were active in the employment market.
At 81.2 per cent, Switzerland had the second-highest activity rate, topped only by Iceland at 87.6 per cent.
According to Enrico Moresi, who co-authored the report, Switzerland’s success can be explained by the fact that the Swiss tend to start working at an earlier age and retire at a later age than other Europeans.
“The length of apprenticeships in Switzerland is generally shorter… and the retirement age is also higher,” Moresi told swissinfo.
In the EU, the percentage of working age people who actually have a job differs considerably from country to country, according to the study.
In general, the rate is higher in northern European countries and lower in both southern states and among the EU’s ten new members, where the average is 65.6 per cent.
In Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain, the average is 64.6 per cent while in Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark, the overall average is close to Switzerland’s at 78.3 per cent.
The activity rates in Germany (72.1 per cent), Austria (71.6 per cent), France (69.4 per cent) and Britain (75.3 per cent) lie in between those of northern and southern countries.
Europe-wide, Switzerland also stands out when it comes to its high proportion of part-time workers. At 31.5 per cent, Switzerland is only surpassed by the Netherlands with 45 per cent.
The pre-expansion EU average for part-time workers was only 18.6 per cent.
This difference can be partially explained by the set-up of the employment market in Switzerland, where the majority of part-time jobs tend to come from the service sector.
The study also showed a high proportion of female part-time workers in Switzerland (56.5 per cent) compared with the European average of 34 per cent.
At 11 per cent, the proportion of male part-time workers in Switzerland is closer to the European average of 6.8 per cent.
According to data from 2002, the average salary of a full-time earner in Switzerland was €50,000 (SFr75,000).
The average full-time employee in Norway, Denmark and Britain earned €40,000, while the Germans were not far behind.
Workers in France and Austria earned less than €30,000, while the average Italian employee picked up only €21,000.
swissinfo with agencies
The rate of activity of Switzerland’s working population (81.2%) is the second-highest in Europe.
The highest is in Iceland, which has a rate of activity of 87.6%, while the European average is 70%.
31.5% of Swiss work part-time.
The European average for part-time workers is 18.6%.
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