Watchmaking industry fears labour shortage

Watchmakers wanted - in the medium term at least Keystone Archive

Switzerland's expanding watchmaking industry has warned it will need to increase its workforce by 18 per cent over the next four years.

This content was published on September 6, 2006 - 07:52

According to an industry survey, more than 2,000 additional workers will be needed to meet a rise in demand triggered by the luxury watch segment and a general economic upturn.

François Matile of the industry's employers' association said fully-trained watchmakers, technicians and other specialists were in short supply. He said the industry would also be hiring a number of unskilled workers.

To meet the workforce target, the association says it will create special training programmes and ask employees to stay on beyond their retirement age.

It is also considering setting up short-term apprenticeships for young people and hiring staff from abroad.

The study published in the watchmaking centre, La Chaux-de-Fonds, on Tuesday is based on data from 117 companies.

Last month the world's largest watchmaking group, Swatch, reported an increase in net profit by nearly a quarter to SFr330 million ($278 million) in the first half of the year.

The group said its outlook for the second half of the year was positive, but cautioned that sales might slow because of a weakening in the global economy.

Swatch's main competitor, French luxury firm LVMH, also posted encouraging results with first half revenue up 12 per cent.

The Swiss watchmaking industry reached its peak in 1970 with about 1,500 companies and a total workforce of 90,000.

Following a crisis in the industry, about 15 per cent of the workforce lost their jobs. Currently there are about 41,000 people employed in the watchmaking business.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The Swatch Group is the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of finished watches, and also produces watch movements and electrical systems.

It owns 18 major watch brands and employs more than 20,000 people in over 50 countries.

At the top end of the market, the brands include Breguet, Blancpain and Omega.

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