Economic Context

Economic evolutions

All the data mentioned in this chapter can be retrieved on the homepage of the Swiss Federal Statistical Office.The structure of the Swiss economy has gone through considerable changes in recent decades, which are typical of virtually all modern economies. Traditionally important industries such as farming, construction and engineering have declined, while most branches in the service sector continue to grow. Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) represent 99.8% of all businesses in Switzerland, and employ 83% of persons active in the private sector. Trends show that the working population is aging, with the largest age group being the 40-54 year olds. Until 2004, the age group of 25-39 year olds was the largest one.

Graduation rate

  • In Switzerland the graduation rate at upper-secondary level stands almost at 95% (2012: 94.7%). Whereof most often the vocational education and training pathway is being chosen over general education. The qualification profile of the highest qualifications achieved within the Swiss population is divided as follows:
  • 12% of the population finished compulsory school at secondary level (ISCED-2011: 2). They did not obtain a qualification at upper-secondary or tertiary level.
  • 53% of the population opt for the vocational and professional education and training pathway, finishing either with a Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualification at upper-secondary level (39%, ISCED-2011: 34/35) or obtaining a Professional Education (PE) qualification at tertiary-level (14%, ISCED-2011: 6/7).
  • 35% of the population opt for the general education pathway, finishing either with a baccalaureate (9%, ISCED-2011: 34) or continue to obtain a qualification in higher education qualification (26%, ISCED-2011: 6/7/8)

Labour market

Between 2005 and 2012, there has been a 13% increase in the number of jobs in all three economic sectors as a whole. The regions of Zurich and Geneva-Lausanne have shown the highest growth in terms of job creation.
The service sector accounts for 74.2% of total employment, whereas 22.2% of the population is employed in industry and business, and 3.6% in agriculture and forestry. Apprenticeship positions available in dual-track VET programmes reflect a similar distribution among the sectors. For example, in 2014-2015, only 5.2% of apprenticeship positions were in agriculture, while the vast majority remained in the service sector. The Swiss apprenticeship system is based on the labour-market needs. “Professional organisations” are responsible for developing new training opportunities and starting revision processes. For this reason the development of competences is directly linked to the labour-market needs and help to cope with gaps. Furthermore, the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) has strategically tackled the task to promote career opportunities in order to attract apprentices in the developing professional fields and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) evaluates the needs in relation to economic changes (Industry 4.0).

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