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Survey finds Swiss bankers top stress league

A banker's lot - well paid but often stressed and depressed Keystone

Bankers top the salary scales in Switzerland, but their fat pay packets come at a price, according to a survey.

This content was published on October 20, 2004 - 18:41

One-third of Swiss bank employees say they feel stressed, while one quarter are on tranquillisers or antidepressants. Just 16 per cent say they are satisfied with their jobs.

The study, by the University of Lausanne, found that stress levels were much higher in the banking sector than in other industries.

“One-third of banking employees reported a very high and continuous level of stress during the past years, compared with 20 per cent in other economic sectors,” said Gianfranco Domenighetti, the visiting professor at Lausanne University who led the study.

The research - which Domenighetti says is the first of its kind - compared 428 banking employees in the southern canton of Ticino with 859 employees across other sectors of the economy.

It revealed that only 16 per cent of bank employees were satisfied with their jobs, compared with 42 per cent of workers in other sectors.

Nearly three-quarters said that on-the-job pressure was getting worse – almost 25 per cent more than in other sectors.

Job insecurity

Domenighetti, who is also head of public health in canton Ticino, said that job insecurity was one of the main factors behind the high stress levels in the banking sector.

In the survey, 40 per cent of bank employees admitted to being very worried about losing their jobs, compared with 26 per cent in other sectors. Among those bank employees whose company was undergoing downsizing, the figure was 54 per cent.

Over the past few years, Switzerland’s banking sector has been going through an upheaval, with poor financial results and job losses.

According to a study by the University of St Gallen cited by Domenighetti, the banking sector is set to lose a third of its employees in the next three years owing to downsizing and outsourcing.

Domenighetti said other stress factors included pressure to achieve financial objectives and a tense working atmosphere.

Only half of respondents said they could count on the support of their direct superior – compared to 72 per cent in other sectors.

“More serious is that only half say they can count on the support of their colleagues whereas in the other sector the amount is 76 per cent,” said Domenighetti, adding that the incidence of harassment was also three times higher in the banking sector than in other industries.

Depression

The survey found that 23 per cent of bankers claimed to be suffering from depression. This compared with about 11 per cent in the other sectors.

Swiss bank employees seek medical advice more often, and one in four takes tranquillisers or anti-depressants compared with one in ten in the control group.

But half of them don’t follow the doctor’s orders out of fear of losing their jobs owing to absenteeism or a perception of weakness, the survey found.

The report’s authors called on the authorities concerned to ensure that work did not become a cause of “malaise and marginalisation”.

The survey follows a wave of concern about working conditions in Swiss banks, after a Zurich bank employee killed two of his superiors before taking his own life last July.

The investigating judge said that the employee “had not been entirely satisfied with his work and there were certain tensions”.

swissinfo

Key facts

According to the survey of bank employees –

25% are on tranquillisers or antidepressants.
16% are satisfied with their job.
40% are very worried about losing their job.
46.5% suffer mental strain at work.

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