Swiss salaries: Bankers no longer biggest earners

The pharmaceutical industry has leapfrogged the banking sector to take top place in the Swiss earnings table, newly published data on executive salaries reveals.

Swiss salaries: Bankers no longer biggest earners
Swiss banking executives are not exactly poorly paid. File photo: Depositphotos

Top-ranking executives in the pharmaceutical industry now have a median gross salary of 645,420 Swiss francs (€565,660) against 526,000 francs for the third-placed banking and financial services sector.

In second place is the insurance industry where the median gross salary for top-flight executives is 643,104 francs.

That’s according to previously unpublished data on executive salaries from the Federal Statistics Office obtained by Switzerland’s NZZ am Sonntag newspaper.

Not just top executives

The banking sector’s slide down the ranking tables is not just for the upper echelons either. Mid-level managers in the pharmaceutical industry now have a gross median salary of 280,000 francs against 220,000 francs for their counterparts in banking, who come in third place behind the insurance industry here as well.

The figures reflect the differing fortunes of the two industries over the decade since the global financial crisis.

While mid-level managers in the pharmaceuticals sector have seen their salaries soar 90,000 in this period (the industry’s exports have climbed from 50 billion francs to 80 billion francs in ten years), bankers at the same level have actually seen their median wage plummet 40,000 francs.

Not crying poor

But top-ranking bank executives can't exactly cry poor. Compared to most industries, they continue to do very well. By comparison, top-ranking executives in the retail industry have a gross median salary of 149,016 Swiss francs. For the health sector, that is 229,244 francs and for the transport sector, the figure is 204,416 francs.

Non-management staff

For employees without management responsibilities, the top earners are in telecommunications, with a median gross salary of 104,352 francs, followed by the pharma industry (100,290 francs) and education at 98,592 francs.

At the other end of the scale, the lowest-paid industries at this level are hospitality (49,932 francs) and then retail, where the figure is 55,380 francs, and construction at 70,188 francs.

Read also: This is how much people earn in Switzerland

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EXPLAINED: Switzerland’s planned work quotas for third-country nationals

While people from the EU/EFTA states can get a Swiss work permit relatively easy, citizens from third countries are subject to quotas, which are renewed each year.

EXPLAINED: Switzerland's planned work quotas for third-country nationals

For 2023, the government will issue the same number of work permits to non-Europeans as it had this and last year, the Federal Council has announced.

This means 8,500 skilled workers from third countries can be employed in Switzerland: 4,500 will benefit from a B and 4,000 from a L permit.

In addition, 3,500 permits are set aside for workers from the UK, as British citizens benefit from separate quotas: 2,100 under a B permit and 1,400 under an L permit.

Why do British citizens have a separate quota?

From January 1st, 2021, people from Great Britain are no longer considered to be EU nationals and are subjected to the same rules as other citizens of third nations.

In other words, they will be “admitted to work here provided if this is in Switzerland’s overall economic interest”, according to State Secretariat for Migration (SEM). 

However, this  doesn’t apply to British nationals who had moved to Switzerland before the end of the Brexit transition period (December 31st, 2020) — they will retain all their existing rights for residence and employment.

How can a third-country national apply for a Swiss work permit?

“Authorisations are issued according to the needs of companies and taking into account the economic interests of Switzerland,” the Federal Council said,  adding that “priority is given to workers already present in the country.”

If you are not in Switzerland but want to apply from abroad, “you may only do so if you are highly qualified, i.e. if you are a manager, specialist or other skilled professional,” according to SEM.

“This means, essentially, that you should have a degree from a university or an institution of higher education, as well as a number of years of professional work experience.”

And, you must have a job offer in Switzerland, that is, someone who can attest they want to employ you. 

Another condition is that your potential employer must prove that there is no suitable person to fill the job vacancy from Switzerland or from an EU/EFTA state, SEM said.

How do you find an employer who might want to take you on?

In the same way as anyone else — Swiss or EU / EFTA national — would: look at posts advertised in Switzerland and if you see a job listing you like, you can apply in the usual manner — send your CV and other documents required by the company.

If you do get hired because you fulfil all the criteria — that is, you are highly skilled and no Swiss or EU candidate can be found to fill this position — your employer will apply for a work permit for you. Cantonal authorities will then decide, based on the quota system mentioned above, whether to grant the authorisation.

You can find more information in this article:

EXPLAINED: What are your chances of getting a job in Switzerland from abroad?