Job Index Q1 2021


Swiss job market

Swiss job ads fall 20% to one of the lowest levels since 2016 while demand for communicative employees booms

Zurich, 15.4.2021 – Swiss job advertisements fell by 20% in the first quarter compared to the previous year and are at one of their lowest levels since 2016. At the same time, the demand for social skills continues to rise and has reached a new high. This is shown in the scientifically based survey from the Adecco Group Swiss Job Market Index run by the Swiss Job Market Monitor at the University of Zurich.

Contrary to the normal upward trend expected at the start of the year, the number of job advertisements stagnated compared to the previous quarter (+1%) due to COVID, with the development in French-speaking and Italian-speaking Switzerland more positive at +8% than in German-speaking Switzerland (-1%). This regionally different recovery can be understood against the backdrop that Latin Switzerland was initially more strongly affected by the pandemic and the job market there suffered greater losses during the first lockdown.
“With the start of the second Corona year, companies are advertising one-fifth fewer jobs in the first quarter of 2021 than in the previous year just prior to the first lockdown. At the same time, the unemployment rate has not yet recovered. Anyone looking for a new job now must not only be well equipped professionally, but should also be socially competent. Communicative employees are particularly in demand,” explains Monica Dell’Anna, CEO of the Adecco Group Switzerland.

Special focus on social skills in Swiss job advertisements

Social skills are particularly in demand in the professions of commerce and sales, management and organisation, finance and fiduciary services as well as in the office and administration. They are required in more than two-thirds of job advertisements. However, in a number of occupations, they are assumed and not explicitly asked for. This is reflected, among other things, in the comparatively low proportion of social skills required in job advertisements for professions in education, public services and culture.
“Lifelong learning should not only include professional expertise or technical knowledge, but also social skills. They are worth the investment, because social competences are among the so-called ‘transferable skills’. They are particularly important when changing jobs, as they can be utilised regardless of the company involved,” advises Monica Dell’Anna, CEO of Adecco Group Switzerland.

The most sought-after social skill: communication talents

Four different types of social skills are most in demand: “communicative”, “cooperative”, “affable” and “assertive”. 1

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With a share of 38%, social skills that can be grouped under the type “communicative” are currently most in demand. These include requirements such as “knowledge of human nature”, “diplomatic”, “strong in relationships and communication”. The importance of this skill is also reflected in the fact that since 1990 the demand for people with communicative and cooperative skills has increased the most.2 Communication skills are frequently mentioned for professions in commerce and sales (51%), management and organisation (51%) and finance and fiduciary services (48%). Communication skills are also frequently requested for office and administration professions (46%) and health professions (45%).
“Communication is crucial to drive transformation and digitalisation processes. Empathy, trust and a clear strategy are fundamental for effective communication. That is why empathetic leaders who give their employees the benefit of the doubt and proactively encourage and support them are more in demand than ever in COVID times, as shown by a cross-country Adecco Group study on the changes in the world of work in COVID times,” comments Monica Dell’Anna.
The second most common type of social competence is called “cooperative” and includes qualities such as “readiness to help” or “ability to work in a team”. Cooperative people are in demand in one third of the advertisements (33%). In third place we find people described as “affable” or “sympathetic” and in fourth place in the social skills ranking are assertive and self-confident employees.

Second most common social competence: cooperative competence


The second most common type of social competence is called “cooperative” and includes qualities such as “readiness to help” or “ability to work in a team”. Cooperative people are in demand in one third of the advertisements (33%). Cooperative skills are most frequently in demand in occupations where social skills are generally mentioned less often in comparison, such as in information technology (41%), industry and transport (37%), engineering and natural sciences (36%). However, in the construction and finishing occupations (31%), where social skills are mentioned less often overall, this type of social skill is by far the most sought-after.

Third most common social competence: affable


A third type of social skill is in demand in 32% of the job ads, namely skills that can be summarised under the term “affable”. For example, candidates are expected to be “friendly”, “sympathetic”, “winning”, “sociable”, “spontaneous” or “service-oriented”. The proportion of job advertisements seeking agreeable or affable candidates has increased again slightly in recent years. These skills are particularly in demand for occupations with a clear service orientation. For example, particularly job ads for professions in commerce and sales (51%), office and administration (46%) and finance and fiduciary services (42%) contain the social skill “agreeable or affable”. They are also frequently requested for hospitality and personal services occupations (40%) and also appear significantly more frequently within this occupational group than other social competence types.

Fourth most common social skill: assertive


Slightly less frequently, but still in 21% of the advertisements, social skills are demanded that indicate that the candidates are “assertive”, e.g. “self-confident”, “sovereign”, “argumentative”, “negotiation skills”, “sales skills”, “leadership potential”. The demand for assertive employees has stagnated over the last few years. Assertiveness is most frequently mentioned – in almost two out of five job advertisements – for management and organisation (37%), finance and fiduciary services (36%), as well as commerce and sales (38%).


Methods and data

In cooperation with the Adecco Group Switzerland and as part of the current Job Index publication, the Job Market Monitor Switzerland of the Department of Sociology of the University of Zurich investigates which candidate profiles companies are currently looking for. In job advertisements, companies provide information about the necessary and desired characteristics, skills and knowledge to perform a job, with particular emphasis on those requirements that are not (yet) taken for granted (Salvisberg 2006).

In addition to technical knowledge or professional experience, social skills are in demand. These include, for example, the ability to cooperate, the way of working, or personality traits. Every year, different skill types are reported. The current Skill Focus of the 1. Quarter 2021 analyses the social skills mentioned in job advertisements and sought after in the market.

  • “Communicative”: able to communicate, diplomatic, social, sociable, able to deal with different people.
  • “Cooperative”: helpful, collegial, able to work in a team, team player, cooperation.
  • “affable”: friendly, service-oriented, winning, pleasant, good manners
  • “assertive”: motivating, confident, assertive, negotiation skills, sales skills.

The results presented here are based on Job Index data (Adecco Group Swiss Job Market Index) for the period from Q1 2016 to Q1 2021. These quarterly data include data from the 12 largest Swiss job exchanges. They are also based on company data from around 1,350 company websites, which constitutes a representative sample for Switzerland stratified by industry and company size. Information on social skills was extracted over a period of five years from German-language advertisements published by companies in German-speaking Switzerland, as well as by companies based in French- and Italian-speaking Switzerland.

[1] Salvisberg, Alexander. 2010. Soft Skills auf dem Arbeitsmarkt: Bedeutung und Wandel. Zürich: Seismo.