If the unemployment rate continues to fall in France, where it reached 8.1% at the end of 2019, its highest level since 2008, there are regions where employees prefer to go to work abroad. As evidenced by the line of cars which, every morning, stretches to Saint-Louis (Haut-Rhin) at the border post with Switzerland where, more than full employment (2.3% unemployment rate!), it is the level of wages that attracts, in a country where a cashier or a diver can earn up to 3000 Swiss francs (CHF) per month, or 2823 euros!
“Between Switzerland and France, there is no photo, both in terms of opportunity and salary,” said Pierre, a 36-year-old Mulhouse resident. For four years, this computer scientist has worked in Basel, where he is paid twice as much as in France. The same goes for Armelle, 34, who lives in Rixheim, near Mulhouse, and works in a sandwich shop at Basel station. “I would earn 1,300 euros in France. There, for a part-time, it is paid 3500 CHF (3291 euros, note). “Out of the forty or so employees, there are around ten French people, like her, commuting every day.
In total, almost 180,000 French people work in Switzerland, 30,000 of whom come from the Alsatian area of the Trois Frontières. François, for example, made a 40-minute journey from Colmar to direct his pharmacy in Basel to a supermarket. He works there 33 hours a week, “to be able to spend two days with the children”, while earning “1000 euros more than in France”. “Before, I lived in Switzerland, but when my wife wanted to work again, we came back to live in Colmar because, in Switzerland, the crèche costs between 3000 and 4000 CHF per month,” he explains. It’s too expensive… “
Another motivation, it would be easier in Switzerland to make a career. “I started at 17 by diving and sweeping,” recalls Julien Hemmerlin, 34, now a chef de rang in a 4-star Swiss hotel. ” The zeugniss, work certificates in which the employer recommends his former employee, are here more important than the CV ”, underlines Julien.
Working in Switzerland, shopping in Germany
For cross-border travelers, the ideal is to live in France, work in Switzerland and do their shopping in Germany. Across the Rhine, “shopping for four people costs me 175 euros in Germany, against 300 euros in France,” calculates Pascal Iggert, an employee at Novartis in Basel for 28 years.
Better still, with his salary of around 6,500 CHF (6123 euros) and thanks to an advance of 100,000 euros on his future Swiss retirement, this 58-year-old father bought himself a house near Mulhouse. “It is much cheaper here and I did not want to live in Huningue or Saint-Louis, which became dormitory towns because of the border residents. “
The downside (in Swiss chocolate), the high Swiss wages are driving up property prices on this side of the border. A 350 m2 house in Saint-Louis costs 1.2 million euros and an old 54 m2 apartment “ideal for cross-border” at 118,000 euros.
“Doing your math right”
“Everyone would like to work in Switzerland, but the problem is the language …”, regrets a young banking advisor. Unlike the older generations, young people do not master Alsatian, very close to German and the Swiss dialect spoken in the region.
However, all is not rosy for cross-border workers. “When the salary is one and a half times higher than in France, you have to do your calculations,” warns the association of Franco-Swiss cross-border workers. Because you have to subtract transportation costs, health insurance and mutual insurance without the employer part, as well as taxes. “Depending on the cantons, one is taxed either in France or in Switzerland, details the association. For health insurance, you have to choose between compulsory private Swiss insurance and French social security billed at 8% of their income to cross-border workers, which is more expensive than in France. “
Other factors to take into account: working time, which in Switzerland can legally reach 50 hours per week and retirement, fixed at 64 years for women and even 65 for men.