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Swiss labour edge diminishes over competitors

A study shows the Swiss may no longer be quite as hard-working as the clichés would have you believe.

The study by a research center at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich shows the average person in Switzerland puts in 1,562 hours a year at work.

That’s barely 90 hours more than the French, who are known for their strict labor laws, but more than 200 hours fewer than Americans and about 600 fewer than South Koreans, according to the study’s finding published on Sunday in Swiss newspaper NZZ am Sonntag.

A big factor appears to be the growing prevalence of part-time work.

Fewer hours, more vacation

The study by the university’s Swiss Federal Economic Research Center, or KOF, says the Swiss average has dropped from 2,400 hours in 1950 – when people had just two weeks’ vacation. Now the average is 5.2 weeks.

That’s a drop from 49-hour weeks for many people and 55 hours for those in the hotel industry, down to 42-hour weeks currently. There also are fewer full-time workers.

“The massive decline in working hours documents the impressive increase in the wealth of our society,” study author Michael Siegenthaler is quoted as saying. Some 41% of Swiss women work full time; with men it is 83%.

France has a standard 35-hour work week, but its unemployment has crept to double-digit figures in some parts of the country. Switzerland’s unemployment rate remained stable at around 4.6% in 2016.

“The decisive advantage of the Swiss system is that a large part of the population has a job. In France, the rigidity of the labour market excludes many people, especially those who are socially weaker,” said Rudolf Minsch, chief economist for the Swiss Business Federation, economiesuisse.

swissinfo.ch and agencies/jmh