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Social Security in Switzerland

If you’re looking to find a job in a stable and wealthy economy, you might want to consider working in Switzerland, a country with one of the highest GDP per capita in the word. Read our InterNations summary on expat work in Switzerland, including info on work permits, taxes, and social security.

The Social Security System

The Swiss social security system is mainly based on state pensions and an occupational retirement scheme. Some people consider private saving plans to be another aspect of the system, although they are not compulsory. Old-age pensions are provided for through contributions to both the federal Old Age and Survivors Insurance and Disability Insurance on the one hand, and through contributions to a company pension plan on the other hand.

Contributions to both schemes are made by employer and employee. Individuals only start contributing to the occupational benefit plan once they turn 24 and earn over 21,150 CHF in wages per year from one employer, though. When changing employers, employees must arrange for their accumulated capital to be transferred to the new employer’s pension fund.

Social Security for Expats

Social security of EU/EFTA citizens working in Switzerland is regulated by the “Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons”. This ensures a cooperation between the member states. Social security contributions made in any one country are added up when benefits are calculated.

Residents of the following non-EU countries also benefit from social security agreements with Switzerland: Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Chile, China, India, Israel, Japan, Macedonia, Montenegro, the Philippines, San Marino, South Korea, Serbia, Turkey, Uruguay, and the USA. They are entitled to a Swiss pension based on the contributions they made when working in Switzerland, even if they are no longer in Switzerland when they retire.

A reimbursement of contributions to the state social security system is only possible under certain conditions or for people from countries with no social security agreement. Applications can be made to the relevant Cantonal Compensation Office or the Swiss Compensation Office just before or after leaving Switzerland. The relevant form (Claim for refund of OASI contributions) can be downloaded in German, French, Italian and English from the AHV/IV (OASI/DI) website.

There are several options with regard to contributions made to the occupational benefits social security scheme. Expats may choose to keep or transfer the fund or request a pay-out, the so-called cash termination benefit. Please contact the provider running your company’s fund or pension plan for more information.

You can also find out more about the Swiss social security system, from pensions to maternity and family benefits, in our collection of in-depth articles on Social Security & Taxation in Switzerland.

Getting a Job — It’s Not Easy

Finding work in Switzerland is not easy from abroad, particularly for non-EU nationals, due to the previously mentioned immigration caps. However, if you are looking for a job regardless, consult the employment sections of major Swiss newspapers, e.g. Basler Zeitung, Berner Zeitung, 24 Heures (Lausanne), Le Temps (Geneva), and Neue Zürcher Zeitung (Zurich).

A good online source is the website of the Regional Employment Centers, part of the Swiss Labor Market Authority. It allows you to search for jobs and upload your personal profile, so you can be found by employers looking to fill a vacancy.

Foreigners working in regulated professions might need to have their diplomas and qualifications recognized before applying for a job in Switzerland. Please consult the website of the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation for detailed information. Medical professionals wishing to work in Switzerland should seek advice from the Federal Office for Public Health.

Take a look at our article on employment in Switzerland for more information, from the job hunt to getting started as your own boss.


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