Job supply and demand: recent trends

What are the recent trends in job supply and demand in the field of international cooperation (IC) in Switzerland? What positions are job seekers interested in? What opportunities do organisations provide and what profiles are they looking for?

cinfo, in cooperation with Büro BASS, has been publishing the IC Labour Market Report since 2010. The report is based on four studies conducted on a regular basis:

  • a survey of employers (Swiss NGOs, international NGOs headquartered in Switzerland, ICRC)
  • a survey of users of the jobs portal cinfoPoste
  • an analysis of vacancies published on cinfoPoste
  • a survey of educational and training institutions

The report contains valuable information for people seeking to join IC (humanitarian aid and/or development cooperation, economic cooperation, peace promotion) and those wanting to make a change within IC. The latest studies were conducted in 2016. The analysis and interpretation of the results are from 2017.

Education or work experience? Both!

44% of vacancies published on cinfoPoste required IC experience, and 57% required a master's degree or higher. 77% of job seekers had experience in IC and 80% held a master's degree or higher.

Should we conclude from this that job seekers are overqualified? Certainly not! Professional experience is taken for granted by many employers and therefore is not mentioned in their job ads. Moreover university education continues to play an important role in finding a position or advancing a career in IC.

Less interest in positions abroad

Fewer and fewer job seekers are looking exclusively for non-support positions based abroad (51% in 2016 compared to 58% in 2014). At the same time, there has been an increase in searches focused solely on support positions, which are generally located at the headquarters of organisations in Switzerland (17% compared to 13% in 2014).

However, this trend is not reflected in the job vacancies. A clear majority of vacancies advertised by organisations concern posts abroad (approximately 80%).

Getting into humanitarian aid without experience? (Almost) a mission impossible

Every second job seeker is looking for a job in humanitarian aid. And 36% of people without IC experience are seeking a job in HA. Needless to say, many have unrealistic expectations, particularly younger applicants: humanitarian aid organisations do not generally offer internships or entry-level positions.

It is easier for young professionals without IC experience to get into development cooperation. Small organisations offer an interesting number of internships (19%). The proportion of internships in large organisations is slightly lower (11%) and in the case of entry-level positions it is 14%.

To find out more about available opportunities, please visit our page for junior positions and programmes.

What about positions with a strategic and/or personnel management function?

Approximately 45% of vacancies on cinfoPoste concern posts in either humanitarian aid or development cooperation without strategic and/or personnel management functions.

Humanitarian aid offers more senior positions with a strategic and/or personnel management role (small organisations: 56%, large organisations: 51%). The figures for development cooperation are lower (small organisations: 34%, large organisations: 30%).

Humanitarian aid and development cooperation continue to converge...

Previously distinct, the two areas are converging and their boundaries are sometimes unclear. Humanitarian aid organisations are integrating more and more aspects of development cooperation, while development cooperation organisations are becoming increasingly involved in fragile contexts.

This is reflected in job supply and demand: almost every second job seeker is looking for a position in either humanitarian aid or development cooperation without differentiating between them. At the same time, increasingly fewer employers (33% in 2016 compared to 51% in 2011) are demanding explicit experience in one area or another.

A short summary

It is not possible to make precise recommendations on the basis of these trends. Professional careers in IC are rarely, if ever, linear. Nevertheless, it can be concluded that development cooperation is better suited to entry-level applicants than humanitarian aid. Flexibility, mobility and a willingness to work abroad are also important trump cards to get into IC. Once in, it is then possible to develop further in development cooperation or transfer to humanitarian aid.

Further information

Highlights of the Swiss labour market in international cooperation (PDF)
Data collection: 2015-2016 | Published: 2017

Share this page