Swiss watchmaking: the workforce has contracted by 3%


December 2020

Swiss watchmaking: the workforce has contracted by 3%

At the end of September 2020, the workforce in the Swiss watch industry stood at 57,550 workers, a reduction of 1,553 jobs (-2.6%) compared with the previous year. The decline is comparatively moderate, given the strong impact of the pandemic on the world economy and watch exports.


t the end of September 2020, there were 57,550 people working in the Swiss watch and microtechnology sector, 1,553 fewer than the previous year (-2.6%). This is according to the annual census of the sector carried out by the Employers’ Convention of the Swiss Watch Industry (CP).

This decline reflects the difficult economic situation faced by companies in the industry, but also the effect of the use of reduced working hours (RHT). These have proven to be essential measures in terms of supporting companies particularly affected by the health crisis, giving them the ability to retain their existing staff. Given the lack of visibility on how the situation is likely to evolve, it is feared that this decline will continue in 2021.

“In view of the lack of visibility on how the situation is likely to evolve, it is feared that this decline will continue in 2021.”

Uniform decline

The personnel assigned to production are typically the most strongly affected by adverse situations, representing a true barometer of the sector. But the year 2020 has been an outlier in every respect, and no professional category has been spared by the decline.

Administrative staff fell by 604 units (-3.8%), management staff by 77 units (-2.5%), while production staff fell by 857 units (-2.1%). The number of home workers declined by 13.3%, but given that this represents only around 100 people, this strong decrease is not very significant.

The number of workers with a trade diploma has remained stable at 26,403 (-0.2%); these now represent 47.3% of the total workforce. The decrease in the proportion of unskilled workers (-6.2%) has resulted in an increase in the proportion of skilled workers in the sector, which now stands at a record 71%.

Neuchâtel most affected

The leading trio of cantons in terms of workforce remain Neuchâtel (15,099), Bern (12,333) and Geneva (10,347). The “watchmaking arc” formed by these three cantons, as well as Jura, Vaud and Solothurn, is home to the bulk of the sector’s human resources, with 53,134 workers (more than 92% of the total workforce).

The cantons of Neuchâtel (-810, -5.1%) and Bern (-307, -2.4%) have been the most affected by the activities of the companies that make up their industrial fabric. The cantons of Geneva and Jura recorded stable employment – Geneva even registered a very slight increase in the number of employees.

Companies covered by the collective labour agreement (CCT) signed with the unions in the sector are in the vast majority, with three-quarters of them (526 companies) employing 49,248 people. This means that in 2020, 85.6% of employees were employed in companies covered by the industry’s CCT.



The Employers’ Convention of the Swiss Watch Industry (CP) is the umbrella organisation for employers in the watch and microtechnology industry. It brings together more than 500 companies employing almost 50,000 workers.

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