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Switzerland tops photonics salary poll again

27 Aug 2013

But latest survey highlights growing expectations of workers in the low-income regions of Asia.

SPIE’s third annual survey of the global photonics workforce has once again found Switzerland to be an idyllic location – and not just because of the local scenery and high salaries.

On top of a median salary in excess of $127,000, 88% of photonics workers in the home of cuckoo clocks, precision timekeeping and multi-functional knives declared themselves to be enjoying their job, while fewer than one in ten work more than 55 hours each week.

That sets the Swiss workforce apart from second-ranked US, where the median salary of $110,000 has risen from $106,000 in 2012 but 14% of workers are chained to their desks for more than 55 hours per week and the job enjoyment rating slips to 84%.

As demonstrated by earlier surveys, the photonics workforce in general does enjoy a very high level of satisfaction. Overall, 85% said that they enjoyed their work, with 90% of the 6500 respondents adding that they respected the work of their peers.

Great expectations?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, at the bottom of the job satisfaction pile stand workers in low-income Asia, with “enjoyment” ratings of 71%, 73% and 74% for China, Malaysia and Taiwan, respectively. Their richer counterparts in Singapore may earn more than twice as much, but fare similarly on the satisfaction rating at 73%.

Despite those lower enjoyment ratings, the low-income Asia workforce also appears to be the most expectant in terms of future earnings. The SPIE survey found that 91% of workers in the region were looking forward to a raise in 2014 – compared with only 58% of lower-income Europeans.

The latter group were also found, surprisingly, to be the worst-paid photonics workers globally, with a median salary of just $8361 - well below counterparts in both Africa and India.

In terms of discipline, those working in the aerospace sector turned out to be the highest-rewarded, with a median pay of $113,500, up from $108,500 last year. Next in line are workers in the semiconductor industry, though after a tough year their median increased only slightly, to just over $104,000.

In summary: those wanting to earn the highest wages in photonics ought to look for an executive position at a large aerospace company in Switzerland – though in truth there aren’t too many of those jobs available.

And spare a thought for the humble writers and editors…lurking close to the bottom of the pile, sandwiched between lowly librarians and budding young researchers, with a median salary of $39,241.

• The full results of SPIE’s third annual Global Salary Report are available at the SPIE Career Center – the ideal place to look for jobs in photonics, from high-flying executive positions in Zurich to entry-level graduate posts.

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