People working two, three or more jobs

By Andrea Stern  

Woman aged 40 to 54 years old, Swiss: that’s what the typical profile of “multi-job workers” looks like. Namely people who work for more than one employer.

In recent years this category has been dramatically on the rise. According to the latest figures published by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, today Switzerland totals 352k people working more than one job, that is 7,6% of the active population. While most of them work two jobs, there are 41k people who juggle three and 14k who have even four or more jobs.

But don’t think these people wear themselves out working 24/24. In fact, the average working time totals 35 hours a week, approximately 25 of which are committed to the main job and the remaining 10 are spent on secondary jobs. At the same time, the domains where “multi-job workers” are particularly crowded are those where part-time is more easily practicable, such as schools, health care and sociality, trade, services and housework.
“I think it is the reverberation of today’s labour market – claims Meinrado Robbiani, president of the Italian Swiss Conference for on-going adult education and training programmes -, which forces people in search of a job to accept part-time jobs too hoping one day they can increase the global number of working hours and have a better income”. In other words, people often strive to work longer hours, but they don’t succeed. 

Accordingly, they need to be flexible and accept part-time jobs as a middle-ground solution. “In this respect – Robbiani points out – businesses plays a crucial role, above all as promoters of on-going education and training which is a paramount resource for the employees who want to respond efficiently to the market’s requirements: people with the best training are more unlikely to miss  professional opportunities and manage to steer their future for the better”.

According to Raoul Ghisletta, trade union officer, the multi-job phenomenon “is more widespread among low-income brackets, especially services, than in high-income occupations. It is people who, working part-time in companies, need to find other jobs to supplement their incomes”. A condition that, mostly experienced by women, leads to pension-related problems since multiple part-time jobs vs. a 100% full-time job penalize access to pillar 2. Employees working for more than one employer and earning under 21.150 Swiss francs per yearly employment contract are not subject to compulsory social security. 

The survey run by the Federal Bureau of Statistics outlines a different picture. While there is no denying that on-going education and training is relevant, only one “multi-job” worker in ten works multiple jobs because they did not make it to find a full-time job. And only one out of eight claims to be in search of a new job. Often, the “multi-job” profile is a life choice which allows people to juggle more confidently work and family needs. Just have a look at the European picture: unlike Eastern Europe and Italy where less than 2% of the population works more than one job, the largest number of “multi-job workers” is found in socially more advanced Northern countries such as Iceland (11,8%), Sweden (8,8%) or Denmark (8,4%).