Dual careers in Switzerland
Dual career couples in Switzerland
Switzerland is one of the leading countries in the field of dual careers. While this is considered a new area of expertise within the academic arena, Switzerland has been leading the way in appealing to couples within scientific and research-led academia. This article looks at how this works.
What are the options for dual career couples in Switzerland?
Switzerland is a small country with short commuting distances and a very diverse job market. Universities in Switzerland are therefore part of a larger, global job market with international employers. It is in an ideal situation to make integration possible. As a result, there are several options for dual career couples.
Having said this, there are a few challenges that should be remembered for those within the scientific research community. Finding positions can be difficult – and it is recommended that spouses use the diverse array of schemes offered by the higher education institutions.
A key component within Swiss society is the idea of integration – and this plays a fundamental part in the options that are offered. Integration for the Swiss does not mean a loss of your own cultural identity; rather becoming a part of it, temporarily or permanently. You are encouraged to see how it works and how to become part of it for your duration in Switzerland.
Universities offer dual career schemes, which can be divided into two areas:
Dual career and professional integration schemes for partners
Family integration schemes that address relevant issues
Both will play a large part in assisting the integration process. Family integration schemes include housing, schooling and childcare, insurances and taxes. However, this will also include cultural integration and language (French, German or Italian).
What support do employers offer?
Schemes offered by employers vary in size and scope. Universities tend to offer services with varied motivations. Some hope to use the service to attract new professors, while others wish to appear more attractive to the international academic elite.
Spouses of new international researchers and staff at Swiss universities are actively encouraged to explore new professional networking opportunities.
It is important to remember it is not just academic institutions who offer support in Switzerland. The number of expatriates from global firms has been increasing in Switzerland year-on-year for the past few decades. It is therefore important for firms to develop and expand and to do so to attract the best candidates. At the start of the decade, multinational companies employed 246,000 people in Switzerland, and in turn Swiss companies employed 2.6 million people from abroad.
With both academic and business interests at the heart, most organisations are a member of the International Dual Career Network (IDCN), which is the main network in Switzerland for those seeking help. This is a non-profit association formed from collaborative organisations – companies, non-government organisations and academic institutions. Its purpose is to facilitate job searching for employees’ partners as well as promoting a pool of talent.
On top of this, each university will have its own integration support, which will often work with the IDCN. Its aims will differ slightly from each institution, but most have a number of key aims it will cover. These typically include:
Assistance with the career of the partner joining their spouse
Offers counselling for partners
Will introduce the partner to potential employers in and outside of academia
Will help revise or make appropriate existing CVs and covering letters to suit the local job market
Finding a flat or house in the area of the institution
Depending on the institution, they may offer temporary accommodation in furnished apartments
The support service will explain how the local housing market works to maximise your chances of finding a new home and they will also put you in touch with professional housing agents
A comprehensive understanding of the options of childcare and schooling in the area
Switzerland offers free state education, as well as fee-paying schools
The support office will explain at length how the education system works, how to get the best out of it and seek what is an appropriate course for you to take for your child
If children are at a pre-school age, they will assist in registering your childcare placement
Target population benefiting from dual career services
Assisting the partner in continuing their scientific career at a Swiss university or a University of Applied Sciences
Offering help to partners who aim to continue their own career in a Swiss company
Offering support for partners who wish to relaunch their career after a break
Partners who want to change career and follow continuing education
Which organisations support dual career couples?
The first dual career advice centre was started in 1999 at the Federal Institute of Technology (Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule Zürich, ETH Zürich) which, in comparison to other academic institutions across Europe, was pioneering in this aspect. Since then, dual career services in Switzerland have become commonplace.
All 12 main research-based institutions (ten universities and two technical universities) have their own dual career support. This came about due to the Swiss Federal Equal Opportunity of Women and Men at Universities Programme 2000, in which, by law, universities in Switzerland increased their efforts to support dual career couples. Targeted services are offered by all individual institutions.
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Universities also join forces with supporting networks in which information is shared, best practices are developed and clear transparent rules are published.
It is now considered crucial that such services exist, as they do not only boost the researchers and scientists, but also the institutions’ ability to appeal to the very best candidates.
Finally, in pursuit of supporting candidates, grants and funding are offered from programmes which depend on the recruiting strategy of the university. More resources will be allocated if there is international recruiting. It is entirely within the gift of the institution how a budget is allocated, and grant money can be allocated for the first few months. Unlike other countries, the giving of grant money for the purpose of dual careers is not a common feature in Switzerland – which is at odds with an otherwise well-developed programme.