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