Switzerland’s looming skills shortage Part 1
Major developments impacting Switzerland’s labour market
By 2030, Switzerland’s workforce will face a shortfall of half a million workers according to a recent University of Zurich report.
This acute lack of workers, particularly skilled workers, could have profound implications for the Swiss labour market. And we don’t have to wait until 2030 to see which areas will be worst affected. The process has already started. For instance, in German-speaking Switzerland today there are shortages of skilled workers in many areas including technicians, electricians, fiduciaries, accountants, doctors, pharmacists, engineers, architects, IT specialists and programmers.
So why is this happening? Basically, it’s down to demographics. There is a growing gap between the number of workers reaching retirement age and those joining the workforce, and this gap is set to increase and thus further compound the situation.
Yet there are other factors that may mitigate the situation. The digital revolution is progressing with increasing speed and many companies are embracing this new paradigm. Digitalization may well reduce a company’s dependency on a large workforce through the automation of repetitive and time-consuming tasks. And many are looking to outsource back office functions to specialist third parties, which brings with it cost savings and enables them up to focus fully on what they do best.
Unsurprisingly, not everyone is enthusiastic about the brave new world of digitalization, especially those in positions at risk of being replaced by modern technology. And, of course, companies will still need the services of a highly skilled workforce well versed in these new technologies.
The Swiss Federal Council is acutely aware of the situation. In the autumn of 2017, it passed a resolution designed to address the changes brought about by digitization as well as the expected skills shortage in the country. The resolution is focused on developing appropriate social security procedures and safeguards and promoting education to ensure the workforce of the future is well equipped. By the end of 2019, various government departments will report on the necessity of making the social security system more flexible to deal with new developments. The Education and Science Department (WBF) has also been tasked with developing a new emphasis on ensuring workers have the core competencies to allow them to thrive in the new workplace environment.
If, as expected, the recommendations are for a more flexible and robust social safety net this will give young and highly skilled workers, who already hold different views to their parents’ generation about the kind of work-life balance they want, a stronger hand when choosing a job. And companies will need adapt how they work and ensure they create an attractive work environment for these highly skilled workers.
Only time will tell how well the Swiss labour market adapts to these changes. But one thing that is already clear is that efficient planning and the willingness to adapt will be the key to future success.
 Fachkräftemangel-Index Schweiz, 23.05.2018: http://www.stellenmarktmonitor.uzh.ch/de/indices/fachkraeftemangel.html
Die Lage auf dem Arbeitsmarkt im Juli 2018, 09.08.2018: https://www.seco.admin.ch/seco/en/home/seco/nsb-news.msg-id-71769.html
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