Swiss confirm their image as busy bees

Swiss employees work more than the European Union average Keystone

The Swiss really are as hardworking as their reputation, notching up a record more than seven billion hours of work in a year, according to official data.

This content was published on March 29, 2007 minutes

The Federal Statistics Office said people worked 42 hours and 20 minutes a week on average.

In all, 7.004 billion of hours were recorded in 2005. That's up 0.4 per cent on the previous year.

In the same period absences increased by 1.9 per cent and overtime remained fairly stable with a fall of 0.1 per cent.

"The number of working hours increased less than the increase in the average number of jobs (1.2 per cent)," a statement said on Thursday.

This was due to slightly fewer working weeks in 2004 and the increase in absences, it added.

Generally, the average working week has changed little over the years. It lessened by eight minutes between 2000-2005 to 42 hours and 20 minutes.

This places the Swiss above the European Union average of 41.6 hours (2001 statistics), but still below Greece and Britain at 46 hours. Neighbouring France has an official 35-hour working week.


However, differences could be seen between volume of work by foreigners and Swiss citizens.

Between 2004-2005 the number of hours worked by foreigners rose by 2.4 per cent whereas the volume worked by the Swiss fell by 0.3 per cent.

Foreigners – who account for just over 20 per cent of the population – spent 1.868 billion hours in 2005 at work – slightly more than a quarter of the total hours recorded.

Working hours differed between the sectors. People in farming and forestry clocked up the most per week at 45 hours and 31 minutes.

They were followed by those housing, research and IT occupations (43 hours and 13 minutes), financial and insurance (42 hours and 55 minutes), which also had the most overtime (97 hours per job).


In terms of overtime, the average across the professions was 51 hours. The health and social services sectors did the least at 29 hours per job.

Absences at work were mainly due to health, but also military and civilian service – obligatory for most men – and maternity leave.

However, the hardworking Swiss still take their leisure time seriously.

According to a survey published in February, nearly nine out of ten people said family and friends remained the most significant aspect of their lives.

They said they did not want to work longer hours even if it meant more money.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Working statistics (2005)
7.004 billion of hours a year.
42 hours and 20 minutes a week.
Absences up by 1.9 per cent.
Overtime down by 0.1 per cent.

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The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) has raised its Gross Domestic Product growth forecast for 2007 to 2 per cent, up from 1.7 per cent previously.

The forecast for 2008 remains at 1.7 per cent.

Seco said on Thursday that the ongoing positive global economic environment and robust domestic demand had prompted it to raise its 2007 forecast.

It warned though that economic risks such as fluctuations in international financial markets could not be ruled out.

The unemployment rate is supposed to reach 2.8 per cent this year (unchanged) and 2.6 per cent in 2008.

Seco is the Swiss government's centre of expertise for issues relating to economic policy. Its goal is to ensure sustainable economic growth through regulatory and economic policy.

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