Nino Meli, head of the RAV in Appenzell Innerrhoden, is happy that AHV and IV are also located in the same building: “Otherwise some of our customers would probably only dare to use the RAV in the dark,” he says.
Thomas SchlittlerBusiness editor Sunday view
The only regional employment center (RAV) in the canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden is based in the middle of the main town, just a stone’s throw from the train station. Manager Nino Meli (55) is happy that AHV and IV are located in the same building: “Otherwise some of our customers would probably only dare to go to the RAV in the dark.”
Being unemployed is still associated with shame in Switzerland – more so in the conservative Appenzellerland than anywhere else. But in recent months, many have been relieved of this burden. RAV boss Meli counted more than 50 unemployed in the canton a year ago, but there are currently only 31: “Fewer than ever before – and everyone was sitting in this office.”
At the end of November 2022, Appenzell Innerrhoden reported an unemployment rate of 0.4 percent – a low: the proportion of job seekers in Switzerland was 2.0 percent. Although that is significantly more than in the canton with 16,000 inhabitants, it is excellent in comparison: Since 2003, the key figure has never been at such a low level at the same time of year.
There are destinies behind numbers
The absolute figures are even more impressive: On average, over the past twenty years, Switzerland had 132,000 unemployed at the end of November. In 2022 there were only 91,327 – and that despite a sharp increase in the number of inhabitants. The number of long-term unemployed has even halved within twelve months.
This is not due to factors that distort the picture, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) when asked. So there weren’t very many deductions that could explain and put the “extraordinarily low unemployment” into perspective.
Thousands of individual fates are behind the gratifying figures. RAV consultant Meli knows some of them up close. “You develop a close relationship with many clients,” he says. “I suffer, for example, when someone makes an effort, but has to accept rejection after rejection.”
In the past few months, Meli has also had many wonderful experiences. A woman came by that morning who had finally found a new job after a year and a half. “It’s a very well qualified IT specialist, but in an extremely specific area,” says Meli. Again and again she had promising job interviews, but in the end she was only second or third choice. “Now it has finally worked,” he says – and beams. As a thank you for his support, she brought him a beaver. “Of course, one would prefer to celebrate such moments with a bottle of champagne.”
Such a decline “never experienced”
In Appenzell Innerrhoden, 1.5 employees are currently enough to take care of all the unemployed in the canton. A few months ago there were two full-time positions.
What sounds like little is actually a lot. In Winterthur ZH, for example, where one of the largest employment centers in the canton of Zurich is located in the Sulzer area, RAV employees have significantly fewer resources. “Ideally, 130 dossiers are handled by each HR consultant,” says site manager Jürgen Fackelmayer (61).
The number of clients has also recently fallen sharply in Winterthur. While 5,500 job seekers were registered there in January 2021, there are currently 2,900. Fackelmayer: “In my twelve years as RAV manager in the canton of Zurich, I have never experienced such a decline.”
The expert attributes a large part of this decline to catch-up effects in the wake of the Corona crisis, for example in the catering or event industry. However, since the number of unemployed is also historically very low, other factors must also play a role. “Many new positions have been created in the past few months, and by no means all of them can be filled.”
Mental problems in boys
According to Fackelmayer, skilled workers in particular are in demand like never before: “If, for example, a plumber contacts us, we can place them back very quickly because we know which companies are desperately looking for good people.” And even for members of the 55+ age group, who in some cases had to search longer in recent years, finding a new job can be much quicker today.
For those job seekers who, despite the good economy, remain dependent on the RAV for a long time, health aspects often play a role, says Fackelmayer: “Young people in particular who cannot find a job often struggle with psychological problems.”
With an unemployment rate of 1.6 percent, Zurich is also below the Swiss average. The largest canton in the country can only dream of Appenzell conditions. RAV manager Meli is convinced that this not only has to do with the small area, but also with the attitude in the half canton: “Whenever possible, Appenzeller hire Appenzeller – and not foreigners.”
Once the reputation is ruined…
However, Meli expressly emphasizes that foreigners who live in Appenzell are not foreigners. “In this regard, as a resident of St. Gallen, I can say that the integration of foreigners works better in Appenzell than in many other cantons.”
However, the neo-Appenzeller concedes that the canton’s small size also has negative sides: “If someone here has a bad reputation, it’s hard to get rid of it.” It is then almost impossible for these people to find a job in the canton.