Thursday, January 28, 2010

A DINK Abroad

A lot of us yodeler expats (especially us former DINKs: Double-Income-No-Kids) know the frustrations with not being allowed to work in Switzerland. Whether you have an L-permit, a B-permit, or the lucky C-permit, it's still a challenge for the trailing spouse (especially for us non-EU nationals) to be allowed to work in Switzerland.

I was one of the lucky ones. With a B-permit, I was allowed to work if an employer would sponsor me. I just had to find that employer. It actually turned out not to be so hard, although the wait to hear if the government would approve my work contract was excruciating. Anyway, they did. Merci, Switzerland.

But still, I wish Switzerland would join the international trend of loosening some of the legal barriers concerning work permits for accompanying spouses. Because according to trailing spouse researcher Yvonne McNulty, 84% of accompanying spouses have a bachelor's degree or higher and 64% of us left careers behind to come abroad. We were not brought up to be Hausfraus or Hausmanns, oder? And come on, Switzerland, you know you want the tax money. Why let France have all the fun?

In 2007, France became one of the latest countries to allow family members of multinational employees to take jobs without obtaining a separate permit (see, they know the tax money's good). And according to the International Herald Tribune, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Argentina, Singapore and the United States have also loosened restrictions. Why not you, Switzerland? I know you don't love foreigners. But you do love our money. So let us make more and we'll both be happy.

Are you a trailing spouse in Switzerland? Were you allowed to work?


Anneliese said...

I am lucky to have an EU passport so working here is not a problem. But I would have loved to be a Hausfrau instead!!

Wide Eyed Gypsy said...

Great post, I'm gonna take it as an opportunity to vent.

There's a pecking order in terms of whose tax money the Swiss will take.

a) In the current market, hiring a foreigner mostly means taking a job away from a local, the assumption in fact is that Swiss/ EU skill sets are better than foreign skills. Larger companies run out of Switzerland prefer locals, the most commonly quoted excuse is language - never mind that they don't specifically mention language in a lot of the job ads.

b) If a foreigner is to be hired, the preference is for, and I'm quoting a feedback that I've personally received - " Old EU" countries, who earn salaries taxable at the highest slab, plus the Swiss govt apparently doesn't have to worry about their social security.

I don't know to what extent this sort of discrimination is prevalent in other parts of Switzerland, but my personal opinion is that they should just stop telling people that they are an open job market, that way, at least a person moving here is mentally prepared.

Chantal said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chantal said...

Hi Anneliese, I guess you always want what you can't have!

Hi WEG, I agree. Not only are things unfair in hiring, but also in firing. It seems that foreigners are the last to be hired and the first to get fired, as evidenced by the bad German being spoken in my unemployment office. The first time I was there, it was me, a German guy, and a Chinese women. Where were the Swiss? Oh yeah, still in their jobs.

mrsmac said...

I've been told that Switzerland needs engineers but I haven't looked into working. The language barrier and the cost of daycare has stopped me! I've also been told the Swiss look down on part time work for mothers so I just never researched it.

her said...

yahhh...i'm a trailing wife who just graduated with a masters and was all ready to start as a therapist! i think that would present a language problem here...:) i haven't looked in to finding a job yet because i'm a little intimidated still. plus, i'm not bored with being a hausfrau quite yet :)

Chantal said...

They do need engineers, especially where my husband works. But yeah, the cost of child care is a whole other issue...

Hi Krystal, there are plenty of English-speakers that need therapy, I mean, look at me! You could always think about starting your own business if you can't get hired somewhere. But enjoy the Hausfrau thing while you can!

Jackie said...

My boyfriend Seth trailed after me when decided to come here to do my master's. He was not a spouse, so despite the fact we'd been together 4 years, he couldn't get a visa with me. Thus he HAD to find the kind of job that would allow him to get a separate visa all on his own. The best way, we have discovered, is to go the student route. Swiss universities love getting good American students, it would seem. (Read more about us at

Chantal said...

Hi Jackie,
I've heard students are treated well here too. I know some people in your situation just got married. But it's probably good that your boyfriend found a job so he didn't feel like a Hausmann!

Kathy said...

Very interesting to hear that France has changed its regs on spousal work visas!

How about those gender and age requirements on job postings? Pretty strange from an American point of view.

Chantal said...

Yeah, no wonder so many expats in the Geneva area live right over the border :)

Gender and age requirements...don't get me started. And you have to put your photo on your CV and your birthday, marriage status, and nationality. Discrimination at its finest!

Kate said...

Almost all my trailing spouse friends in Bahrain have a degree of some sort and had a great career in a past life. The rule for wives here is that you can only work (legally) without sponsorship if you want to be a teacher or a nurse. No stereotyping there then!

Chantal said...

Wow, teacher or a nurse, huh? Interesting.

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