Unemployment in Switzerland

Hi RIP friends,

Today we have the first guest post on this blog! I asked a close friend of RIP family to write something about being unemployed in Switzerland. This post fits in the Switzerland series, where we discuss how’s life and work (and the lack of it) in Switzerland.

So… welcome Mr. DIP!

No, guys, Mr DIP is not an “imaginary friend of mine”.

But RIP, you used to talk with your imaginary friend on this blog!!

Yes, I know I sometimes like to draw a post as an imaginary talk with an imaginary friend of mine, but it’s not the case for Mr DIP! Trust me, my… my imaginary… friend.

Anyway, welcome Mr DIP, it seems we’re going to see you again on this blog 🙂

I don’t know why all those places look exactly the same. They’re all like… like you see them in the movies. Trust me, I am an expert. It all started when I was a teenager. In and out of them. Sometimes I succeed for a while, but then I fell down again and again.

I remember the very first time. I was 17 or 18 I guess. I’m sure that I hadn’t a driving license yet, so it must have been before age 18. I remember I was going around by bike, after school, looking for itA friend of mine that started some months before gave me few contacts, phone numbers, even physical addresses. He said: “trust me, there you could find what you need”. He also told me that as soon as I’d begin with it I would have suddenly felt more adult, more independent… a free man! Of course he omitted to say that once you start it’s almost impossible to stop. It’s addictive. I don’t blame him though. He’s not guilty, of course. He was probably not fully aware of what we were just doing.

Anyway, fast forward more than 20 years and I’m sitting here, in this bare room lighted with a cold, partially blinking neon lamp. There is a ring of cheap chairs in the middle of the room. On the otherwise empty walls just a couple of posters from the nineties. One of them picturing a happy smiling family that appears to come from another world. The other one is announcing the national 1997 meeting of the association.

Well, it’s my turn. Let’s go!

I stand up. I know, it’s visible and I don’t care… I am nervous. Every week it’s the same torture. Even though I know that I am clean, I can’t help myself. It always feels like the very first day of school.

I breathe…



I did it!!

First one to stand up is John, the homeless. He is the older member of the crew and the most devoted too. Legends say that he never worked! He comes and hugs me strong. Then, one by one, all the others stood up clapping sincerely. A standing ovation! I can read happiness on their faces. Happiness for my impressive score and a spark of hope for themselves. There is the ex banker, FI since 6 months. Two actually retired guys, but we all have to check on them periodically since it’s so difficult for them to accept that they don’t have to go to work every day. Then there’s Thomas, an ex CEO from a multinational company fired with an embarrassing fat severance package, but I’m sure he’ll stay briefly with us. He’s so dangerously addicted. I bet on just a couple of weeks.

There is also an observer. A real worker. A man from the dark side. I’m watching you, Mr. RIP!!! I know that you think you can stop whenever you want. You’re so naive… I have to admit that you are diligently doing your homework… Unfortunately, coming out from the shifting sand of a guaranteed work is not so easy as it seems. Luckily I, John, the banker and the others will always be here to help!

So, now you know me. I am Mr. DIP and I am F.I. since the beginning of the year… well… it should be better to say that I am temporary F.I. or that I am testing the life of a retired, just to be sure I don’t discover that I don’t like it when the actual retirement comes at age ~70.

In other words, I AM UNEMPLOYED, which here in Switzerland it exactly means to be FI for a certain period, and I am here to tell you about this amazing experience.

First of all, why MR. DIP? Well, it is the acronyms of Depression In Progress. That’s because no matter which one of the possible paths this story would evolve, I will certainly be depressed, sooner or later.

As a matter of fact, best case scenario I will find a Job in the next 14 months and then I will be depressed: I’d miss this amazing time of my life of waking up with no stress and no alarm clock, taking care of my little daughter, making something for myself like learning a new language. Everything will be over. On the other side if I will not find a job I will become soon extremely poor… and of course I will be depressed by that.

Below you can find the status of my unemployment insurance period.


But the real reason why I am here is because my friend and source of great inspiration Mr. RIP invited me to explain how the unemployment system works in Switzerland. So, take pencil and paper and be ready to note it down.



  • A worker, registered within the confederation.
  • A valid residence permit.
  • Having lost (or quit) partially or totally your job.
  • At least one year of work (and the relative payment of the unemployment insurance).
  • Having completed the compulsory education and not being yet retired.
  • Being willing to start immediately in case you receive an offer.

With these 6 simple elements you can happily register yourself to the RAV (Regionale Arbeitsvermittlungszentren), ORP (Offices régionaux de placement) or URC (Uffici regionali di collocamento) depending on the main language of your Kanton.

Note: you actually only need the first 3 ingredients to be register as unemployed at RAV (ORP or URC) but of course you will just receive a general consultancy, access to the RAV job databank and no unemployment compensation. In some cases RAV can decide to offer a basic language course or other elementary services to this subclass of unemployed citizens, like a CV clinic or similar.

If you are lucky enough to have collected all the above requirements then you can access to the golden paradise of the Full Swiss Unemployment System Package that includes:

  • A RAV consultant that you can must meet once a month.
  • The unemployment compensation ($$$).
  • Accident insurance.
  • Sickness insurance.
  • Paid holidays, i.e. a week every 60 days of unemployment.
  • 14 weeks of maternity, in case you are a woman… and only if you are pregnant!

Essentially you’re now a RAV employee, with rights and duties. Of course, nothing of the above comes for free:

  • You have to stay in Switzerland. You are not authorized to leave the country during the workdays – Monday to Friday – unless you have requested holidays (and had them approved), at least 14 days in advance. You must also be reachable per ordinary mail or telephone within 24 hours if needed, even while enjoying your holidays.
  • You have to demonstrate that you are actively looking for a Job on a monthly basis. You have to prove (with emails, phone calls, letters from companies you have contacted) that you have applied for at least 10/12 different positions each month, no matter how narrow your field is. Ten to twelve is your magic number.
  • You have notify your RAV consultant about any event that you’d normally be required to tell to your employer, as for example sickness.
  • It’s mandatory to “do your homework” that the consultant decides with for you. Like attending a German course.

If you miss one of the above your consultant can suspend the compensation for a while, and if you are recidivist he can suspend it permanently.

So, as you can easily see it all strongly depends on the RAV and your consultant. Which, believe it or not, is not the same entity that pays the unemployment compensation. For that there is a separate private insurance. There are many of them and at the beginning of your unemployment period you can choose among a selected and authorized numbers of them. Once picked one at the beginning, you only have to fill a form each month and bring it to your lovely insurance. Within 2 days you have your money in your bank account.

[RIP note: we’ve recently seen that unemployment insurance is part of the large Social Insurance System named Pillar 1]

And last but not least… the actual money! I know you’re all interested in this, so I kept it for the sweet ending: how is your unemployment compensation calculated?

Easy. It will be 70% (or 80% in case you have children below 25 years) of your insured salary. The “insured salary” is usually considered your last salary before unemployment or, in case of big swings during last months, the highest average salary between the last 6 and 12 months. Salaries lower than 500 and higher than 148,200 chf/year are not insured. It means that the best case scenario is a gross yearly unemployment compensation of 80% of 148,200 chf/year, i.e. 118,560 chf/year.

For how long can you receive unemployment compensation?

It’s complicated… To make it simple let’s say that if you worked at least 2 years as a full time employee then it’s 400 working days plus vacations (a week every 60 days). Yes, you’re paid day by day (but on a monthly basis). 400 daily allowances that have to be received in a two-year period. It’s more or less 22 actual months.

More info here.

That’s more or less all folks! I could add here details about my personal experience and opinion, but maybe we can leave it for another post.

Hamster Getting a Workout on Spinning Wheel --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis
Hamster Getting a Workout on Spinning Wheel — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

… sure there will be another post, DIP, I actually hope more than one.

Mr. DIP, thank you for your time!

I really wish you to get back boon on your hamster wheel, if that’s what makes you depressed the less.

Holy sheet guys, how can we help Mr. DIP? Well, keeping him busy with writing for this blog is a good start!

Next DIP’s episode would be about his personal experience and opinion, but I’m also planing to ask him to answer few more technical questions, like:

  • What happens if you receive a job offer? Are you really forced to accept an offer no matter what the compensation and/or job location is? Are you supposed to accept an offer from everywhere in the word? Everywhere in Switzerland?
  • What actions does the RAV take in order to help you getting back on the hamster wheel? Just a language course? Other professional courses?
  • What happens if there are less than 10-12 available open positions for your job title in your area? Should you send random CVs around to hit 12?
  • What about sickness? Are you receiving your daily allowance during a prolonged sick leave? Does it block the 400 days term?
  • Are vacation (a week every 60 days) paid? If they do extend the 400 days term, why isn’t it just a 446 days term instead (you roughly have 46 days of vacation on 400 days)?
  • What if I’m a self employed / freelance?

Any other specific question, readers?

I’d love to enjoy my hamster wheel too, but I’ve a different idea on how I’d like to play with it 🙂



  1. Very nice post. Loving your series on Switzerland. You and MP are doing great job putting all these resources together. Thank you very much for that.

    Regarding questions about RAV, we can include following as well for future post:

    I know a person who is registered with RAV but does not want to actually work yet. He just apply for 10 to 12 jobs in a month, but does not follow them. Even if he gets replies for some of his applications, he just ignores them. So question is, how RAV controls whether you are really looking for a job or you are just passing the time? How is the experience for Mr. DIP in this regard?

  2. Hi Tahir and thanks for asking. The answer is easy: every month you have to provide to your RAV consultant the list of all the applications that you have done. That means that you have to produce an exhaustive list of companies including a contact of a person that the consultant could contact in case of… “questions”. There is only one official reason why a consultant can call a provided contact: to understand why the candidate was not chosen and eventually help him for future applications. It is obvious that in reality when they do it it is only to check if you lie or not and this depends only from the consultant that you have the luck to be assigned to. In case they discover that you refused a “reasonable” job within 4 hour ( in total ) of commuting you will loose PERMANENTLY your unemployment compensation. My personal experience is that the level of attention on your job ( looking for job ) is growing with the passing of time. I personally suggest to your friend to avoid to play with the fire 🙂

  3. What about residence permit? Many of my friends have a permit tied to their employment, yet they still pay into the unemployment insurance scheme. I’ve seen some docs that they may be granted permit extension to look for a job, but I wonder how it works in practice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comment Spam Blocking by WP-SpamShield