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‘Alarming’ rates of sexual harassment and stress among Swiss apprentices

apprentice shoemaker
More than two-thirds of students after the compulsory three years of lower secondary school choose to pursue the vocational path. Keystone/ennio Leanza

Some two-thirds of apprentices in Switzerland, many of whom are minors, have experienced sexual harassment – one-third of whom say that it occurred in the workplace.

This is according to a studyExternal link on the life of apprentices published by the trade union organisation Unia Youth on Monday. The organisation surveyed 800 apprentices – some 28% of whom were in their first year of apprenticeship. Women made up 61% of the survey respondents.

Many of those affected are minors and have only been working for a short time, often in their first job. One third of respondents indicated that they faced sexual harassment at work, another third at school and just over half in their private lives. Only 30% had never experienced sexual harassment.

“The fact that so many young people have already had such an experience is alarming and shows that apprentices, but also all employees, need to be protected more,” said Kathrin Ziltener, national youth secretary at Unia, in a statement.

The most common forms of sexual harassment were sexual innuendos and derogatory remarks. The experience was more common among women with some 80% of females surveyed indicating they faced sexual harassment, compared to 46% of males.

Stress on the job

The survey also found high levels of stress among apprentices, with some 70% indicating that they felt stressed and nearly half felt overwhelmed on occasion.

Almost two-thirds (63%) of all respondents had to work overtime from time to time during their apprenticeship and almost a third (31%) have already been bullied at the workplace.

To address the situation, Unia calls for better legal protections for apprentices, especially with regards to overtime and evening work. It also urges workplaces to implement a zero-tolerance policy concerning sexual harassment, to create a contact point within or outside the company, and to put in place sanctions for employees who are found guilty of sexual misconduct.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR