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Skilled worker shortage Swiss care system faces massive expansion

With people in Switzerland living longer, more nursing staff will be needed


Swiss people are living increasingly long, a trend that will create thousands of jobs in nursing, support, administration and other such sectors, a government study says. Finding skilled staff to fill these jobs, however, will be far from easy.

As a result of the trend over the coming decades Switzerland must “dramatically” expand its care system, says the study on employment and productivity in the social sector published in December 2016 by the Federal Social Insurance Office.

“The social services sector has now become a major economic sector, involving more and more resources and personnel,” says the study, reported by Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung. “This level of growth is likely to continue over the next 15 years.”

It predicts up to 134,000 full-time jobs will be created by 2030 because of Swiss longevity, but these are not considered official figures endorsed by the government, according to the federal office’s Olivier Brunner-Patthey.

Job exodus

A co-author of the study who lectures in social politics at the Lucerne School of Social Work, Donat Knecht, says the demographic trend is “certainly an important aspect, but so are the structural changes in the economy and society”.

“Opposite people with jobs are more and more people of a retirement age and people in need of care. That is a significant trend. And the economic structural change means the labour market is becoming increasingly exclusive: people who previously would have found a job in the normal job market are no longer finding these jobs,” he said.

The study concludes that cantons, cities and towns, and school districts, along with businesses that hire people for social services will have to adjust their ways because of the trend.

Social directors for the cantons bear responsibility, too.

“We still see potential regarding further (catch-up) education of adult migrants or late arrivals,” said Gaby Szöllösy, general-secretary of the Conference of Cantonal Social Directors. “We’re also concerned about the high rate of people who leave their jobs in the care sector.”


But where to find these additional skilled employees? That will be a harder task especially after 50.3% of Swiss voters backed an initiative in February 2014 to introduce immigration quotas for EU workers, which is expected to result in preference going to local job-hunters.

The conference is currently looking into which measures are at the cantons’ disposal to cover the growing need for skilled workers and training positions.

It also emphasises an aspect of the study showing that relatively few foreigners work in the care sector – foreigners make up 12% of that workforce, compared with a national average of 25%.

“This means implementing the mass immigration initiative will certainly have less serious consequences for the care sector than for the [overall] health sector, for example,” the conference said.

Nevertheless, it said the recruitment of enough qualified workers “remains a challenge which we’re tackling”.

Translated from German by Thomas Stephens,

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