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Caught between the season and home

Apr 18, 2018
The winter season in the Alps is at an end. The mostly foreign seasonal workers have worked hard for others’ holidays. Initiatives in France and Switzerland are providing ideas on how to improve their situation.
Image caption:
Improving the situation of seasonal workers. © Chüestall Riederalp_flickr

Levelling ski slopes, changing bed linen, serving drinks, massaging shoulders – winter tourism in the Alps would not be possible without the numerous seasonal workers. A large part of the workforce comes from abroad. Long working hours, changing positions, frequently absent social networks and a foreign language make everyday life and integration into the local community more difficult. Projects in France and Switzerland now aim to help seasonal workers in the tourist industry.

The French town of Les Bellevilles now has a three-year plan that aims to reduce psychosocial risks to seasonal workers such as stress, overwork or even bullying. The concentrated working hours, challenges in the mountains such as cold and social isolation, as well as high workloads are all major burdens on their mental and physical health. Targeted information and networking services as well as preparation courses are intended to help, while workshops strengthen the awareness of employers of the existence of such risks in tourism.

Many Portuguese work in the tourist resorts of Switzerland. According to Professor Beatrice Durrer Eggerschwiler of Lucerne’s School of Social Work, the Portuguese are often barely integrated into local society and usually do not feel at home in the places where they live and work. Together with local authorities, institutions, employers and the Portuguese themselves, Lucerne University has – as part of the Interreg PlurAlps project – developed measures in four pilot communities (Engelberg, Lauterbrunnen, St. Moritz and Zermatt/Täsch) specifically to improve the situation of Portuguese workers. For Wolfgang Pfefferkorn, project manager for social innovation at CIPRA International, these initiatives represent important first steps: “The positive results from regions like this can inspire other municipalities in the Alps”.


Sources: (fr),, (de),