Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and considered to be the country’s economic and financial hub. It’s also one of the most important and largest financial centres in the world. As a result, it offers varied job opportunities in different fields for both expats and locals. As if that wasn’t enough, the labour market isn’t suffocated by many regulations, offers competitive salaries, and has moderate taxation rates. Working in this city allows you to participate in one of the most competitive economies in the world, making it an attractive prospect for many expats. That being said, a job in a new city/country brings up a number of questions, which I hope to address by the end of this text. Note that 1 United States Dollar equals 0.98 Swiss Franc as of March 2020.
What is the average salary in Zurich? A person working in this city should expect to earn an average gross salary of $18,535/month or $222,623 a year. For those with hourly jobs, the average pay per hour is $103.56. Expats should generally expect high salaries, which is sort of necessary given the high cost of living.
In addition to being a good place to work, Zurich is also a good place to live. It boasts high standards of living, low crime levels, political stability, a scenic environment with plenty of recreational activities, not to mention, it’s notoriously clean. With all these great features, it’s not hard to see why it has become one of the most preferred destinations for expats moving to Switzerland. This guide to Zurich is going to cover the city’s economy, job market, job hunting, working conditions, as well as the salaries offered here so you can make an informed decision about relocating and working in Zurich. Let’s get right into it:
Average Salary in Zurich
As mentioned earlier, salaries in Zurich are generally higher. But bear on mind that they will vary depending on your occupation. Here’s a list of average monthly gross salaries for popular jobs in Zurich:
- Accountant – $13,075
- Administrative assistant – $9,845
- Graphic designer – $13,594
- Pilot – $23,068
- Architect – $16,872
- Mechanic – $10,390
- Teacher – $14,403
- Project manager – $22,015
- Nanny- $12,050
- Call centre representative – $12,770
- Engineer – $17,302
- CEO – $44,595
- CFO – $37,590
- Dentist – $45,527
- Nurse – $14,317
- Police officer – $14,832
- Attorney – $26,986
- Cashier – $10,712
Salaries in Zurich are generally negotiated individually unless, of course, your particular sector has a collective agreement. That being said, you can expect higher salaries here than what is offered in the country as a whole –up to 10% more. Other factors that could affect your salary include:
Years of experience
Employers will naturally offer higher wages to people with more years of working experience. Research shows that those who have 2-5 years of working experience earn 32% more than fresh and junior employees. Your salary increases by another 36% when you have more than 5 years of work experience. This trend cuts across all disciplines and industries.
Level of education
Diploma or certificate holders make about 17% more than those who only got to high school. Your salary will increase by another 24% if you hold a bachelor’s degree. PhD holders earn the most, which is why many pursue higher education as a tactic to make more money.
Companies in thriving industries, which I will talk about in a moment, tend to offer higher salaries with more frequent raises.
Government vs private sectors
Unlike most economies, employees in the public sector in Zurich earn more (up to 4% higher) than those working in the private sector.
The job market of any region is largely determined by its economy. As a result, it only makes sense that I take you through the current economic situation in this city. Zurich has always been considered the economic motor of the country. Its economy is strongly service-oriented with about 90% of people employed in this sector. Unlike before, few of the highly skilled labour force actually work in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors. The unemployment rate remains pretty low in this city at about 2.7%
As I mentioned earlier, Zurich is one of the top financial centres in the world –comparable to New York’s Wall Street. In addition to the Swiss Stock Exchange, Zurich is home to household names of finance, banking, and insurance. As a result, the most important field of employment in finance. This industry accounts for about one-third of the city’s GDP and offers a quarter of the job opportunities.
Zurich also houses the majority of the country’s research and development institutions, which means they are also big employers. Aerospace, automotive, biotech, creative industries, Medtech, optical technology, tourism, and IT are also expanding industries with an increasing number of employment opportunities.
Zurich Average Income per Person
The average income per person is often thought of as a good gauge of the standard of living and quality of life in a place. It measures the total income received by persons in a given area (Zurich) from all sources in a specified period, divided by its total population. That being said, the average income per person in Zurich amounts to around $97,781 a year. Such a huge figure places Zurich at the world’s top cities. Expats-to-be can, therefore, expect the best quality of life in every sphere while living and working in this city.
The Minimum Wage in Zurich
Zurich has no official minimum wage, neither does the national government. This doesn’t mean that your employer is allowed to pay you whatever they want. Salaries are agreed upon on an individual basis or collectively. Collective labour agreements are made by the social partners, including employers’ association and trade unions, and could be on a company, sector, industry, or national level. These agreements regulate any aspect of working life, including salaries, working conditions, training, and so on. They contain clauses on minimum wage, which typically range from $2,230-4,257/month for unskilled workers and $2,840-5,374/month for the skilled workers.
Collective agreements are meant to protect employees from unscrupulous employers. Therefore, it’s important to do some research and understand the agreements that have been put in place. You can inquire with your employer or check the relevant agreements online to find out if there’s a CLA that covers your sector/job.
Understanding labour laws is just as important as understanding salaries. Employees in Zurich enjoy fairly good working conditions. For starters, the majority of the working population earn a higher salary than in other major cities in Europe.
Normal working hours are 41¼ hours per week. Overtime is set at two extra hours per day, although most people end up working more than that. Authorised overtime is generally compensated with time off in lieu. When it comes to paid leave, Zurich employers provide between 25-35 days of vacation, depending on your age and rank. Workers also get paid time off during Swiss national holidays and the city’s extra public holidays. Following the birth of a child, female employees in Zurich get up to 20 weeks of paid maternity leave. Fathers, on the other hand, are granted 15 days of paternity leave.
Zurich Income Distribution
This describes how the city’s total income is distributed amongst its population. Generally, salaries in Zurich range from a minimum average of $2,451/month to a maximum average of $80,308/month. The median salary is $18,835/month. The median salary is the figure that divides the income distribution into two equal groups; one half having income below that amount and the other half above. Two other values that are closely related to the median are the 25th and the 75th percentiles. 25% of Zurich’s working population earn less than $9,585/month, meaning the remaining 75% earn more than that amount. Subsequently, 25% earn more than $ 51,545/month while the remaining 75% earn less than that amount.
While nearly two-thirds of the city’s population is defined as middle class, income inequality persists. The figures stated above are all salary indicators, and judging from the income distribution, there’s a huge wage gap between the top earners and the lowest earners. Employees in this city should expect a 9% salary increment every 15 months. But since this is likely to be the case for everyone, the wage gap isn’t going to narrow any time sooner.
Aside from the top and lowest earners, income in Zurich is also distributed by gender. Though this shouldn’t be a factor affecting one’s pay, the reality is it does. Male employees generally earn more (about 4% more) than their female counterparts. The average gross salary for men is $16,804/month while that of women is $16,097/month. While this is not a huge difference, as it is in several other regions, there’s still room for improvement.
Zurich Job Market
Majority of the employment opportunities for expatriates, as well as locals, come from the finance sector such as in banking, tax consultancy, insurance, business consultancy, accountancy, and wealth management. This sector generates about a quarter of the job opportunities in Zurich and a third of its wealth. Be sure to check the carer pages of big financial companies in Zurich, which include Swiss Life, Swiss Re, Crédit Suisse, AXA Winterthur, the Zurich Insurance Group, and UBS. There are opportunities in other industries as well, including IT, medical technology, computing, engineering, micro and nanotech, health, and media just to name a few.
In addition to Swiss companies, various multinational companies are located in Zurich, which routinely sponsor and employ foreigners. They include Google, Microsoft, PWC, BMW, Volvo, IBM, Pfizer, Renault, Bayer and Fiat. Unlike most local companies, these multinational companies don’t necessarily require applicants to speak German.
There are also several opportunities to teach English. You’ll likely need an English degree and a CELTA certificate to do so in standard schools and private language schools. Very few schools will consider you without these qualifications; even then, they won’t offer the best chance of earning a good salary. Alternatively, you can give private lessons to students.
Zurich is incredibly multicultural with 32% of the population being expatriates. It also houses so many international companies, as I had mentioned before. As a result, there’s no language barrier and English-speaking professionals shouldn’t have a hard time finding a job. Of course, learning German can further expand your horizon and even make every-day life easier.
Finding a job in Zurich
This is not an easy task. And, given the high cost of living in Zurich, it’s advisable to secure a job first before relocating. Oftentimes, people begin their search on the internet or you can check the company websites directly. Newspapers also have specific sections that advice job offers or you can consider recruitment agencies. Generally, educated and experienced expats are in high demand and should have no problem finding a job in Zurich.
About the author: Marta Kovachek is the author of this article. She graduated from the University of Chicago with a master’s degree in Economics. Marta enjoys writing about the current economic situation and loves helping our readers to find their next "destination". From places to live to complex social and economic topics, we always enjoy Marta's work. Please contact us in case of any questions.