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New forms of work

Interview with Erhard Brodmann, Career, Study and Career Counselling at the Career and Career Counselling of the City of Zurich

Erika Sommer and Cristina Büttikofer-Béltran spoke with Erhard Brodmann.

Erhard Brodmann works as a career and study advisor at the LBZ (source: E. Brodmann).

How do you assess trends and challenges in the retail trade with regard to the world of work?

In my consultations, I experience again and again that the prestige of the professions in the retail trade has decreased. Many like to go shopping, but fewer and fewer people want to work in this field of work. This also has something to do with the framework conditions. The working hours were extended more and more to evenings and weekends. Since about 2/3 of the employees in sales are women, it is becoming increasingly difficult to coordinate the professional activity with the tasks as a family woman.

Another trend is shopping in the near abroad. This worsens the situation of the trade in Switzerland and has an impact on the apprenticeship market. The people who buy cheap abroad probably don't think that their daughter or son might one day be looking for an apprenticeship in the retail trade.

In general, one can speak of a cultural change. The consumption of all of us has increased enormously and thus the intrinsic value of the products has decreased. We simply consume any "goods" that are quickly interchangeable.

Between 2005 and 2015, the number of employees in the professional field of sales, trade and purchasing increased by 3,400. This corresponds to an increase of 2%. Compared to the growth across all occupations (+17%), the number of employees in the occupational field has developed below average during this time.

Who are the winners and losers of the developments?

The winners are people who can react very flexibly, who are looking for short-term and short-term work assignments, e.B. via Internet platforms. The losers are the low-skilled because the demands for permanent employment are increasing. Single parents and people who cannot work during off-peak hours and/or weekends are also among the losers. Therefore, the childcare times in the crèches would have to be adapted to today's needs.

What are the effects on working conditions in the city of Zurich?

Even companies in the best location in Zurich sometimes only hire people by the hour or by the day. Employees no longer feel part of the company, which reduces their identification with the products they sell. I know a person who ran the tableware department in a department store for 50 years and today at the age of 90 still immediately recognizes where a plate comes from. Today, I hardly encounter such a great connection with professional activity and products.

As a counter-movement, there are shops with products that are produced with a lot of passion and great passion, partly also in Switzerland. Enthusiastic people work there who are fully behind their products. Through advice and expertise, you can win customers and be successful in the retail trade. I assume that there is a growing awareness in our society of buying fewer mass-produced goods that are produced somewhere in the world under questionable circumstances. People are again looking for personally designed products that not only have a material value, but have also been produced under ethically and ecologically correct conditions,

How are the requirements for job seekers changing?

In the past, it was relatively easy to get started in the retail trade. Even as a low-skilled person, someone found a job. This is now changing more and more through automation, self-scanning, etc. The demands on qualifications are increasing.

For people who only have selective professional experience, e.B. at a cash register, but no federally recognized degree, it will be more difficult to get a new job in the retail trade. For these people, catching up is an important topic. According to the labour market study by George Sheldon (2017), in 1970 30% of employees in the retail trade in Switzerland had no vocational training, today it is still 15%.


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