Swiss working hours see record drop in Covid year 2020

The restaurant sector, unurprisingly, was one of the most affected. Keystone / Salvatore Di Nolfi

The amount of hours worked by employees in Switzerland in the pandemic year 2020 saw a collapse unprecedented since records began three decades ago.

This content was published on May 18, 2021 - 11:07

Faced with the restrictive health measures, both the total number of jobs (down 0.7%) and the weekly average hours worked per job (down 5.5%) fell markedly, the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) said on Tuesday.

The worst-hit sector was unsurprisingly hotels and restaurants, where workers saw their average hours drop by just under a third. The arts and events sector was also badly hit, down 13.6%.

Overall, hours might have dropped even more had Swiss employees not also tended to take less annual leave last year, the FSO writes. On average, workers took 3.9 weeks off, rather than the 4.5 weeks in 2019.


Beyond the loss of jobs in general – Switzerland’s unemployment rate in January this year was 3.7%, the highest rate in a decade – the main reasons for the fall in hours worked were the short-time working hours system, as well as sickness and Covid-19 restrictions.

Short-time working, a system which allows companies to temporarily reduce staff working hours and receive compensation from unemployment assistance money, was the reason given for 38.8% of total annual work absences, the FSO said.

Absences for reasons of sickness or accident represented 31.1% of the total, slightly increasing. Restrictions such as a quarantine obligation or a temporary closure of a business represented 22.1%.

Overall, the FSO writes, the weekly drop of 4.2% in average hours worked by employees aged 20 to 64 was moderate compared with neighbouring countries; the European Union average last year was -6.9%, it said.

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