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Most SMEs See no Disadvantage in the Certificate Requirement

Three-quarters of Swiss SMEs have a neutral or positive view towards the COVID certificate requirement. In the catering and hotel industry, however, almost 60 percent consider the impact to be negative. This was reported at the sixth ZHAW Coronavirus SME Panel.

Of all small and medium-sized companies in Switzerland, 39 percent consider the certificate requirement introduced in mid-September to be either positive or highly positive. Another 36 percent see the consequences for their own company as neither good nor bad. Every fourth SME rates the consequences as negative or very negative, and almost one-fifth consider themselves to be at a disadvantage compared with companies in other sectors. These are the results of the sixth survey of the Coronavirus SME Panel of the ZHAW School of Management and Law. For the study, ZHAW researchers surveyed 201 small and medium-sized enterprises from mid- to late September.

Further Redundancies

“Overall, many SMEs see no major disadvantage in the certificate requirement. However, perceptions vary greatly from one sector to the next,” explains Andreas Schweizer, head of the study at the ZHAW Center for Corporate Performance and Sustainable Financing. The hotel & catering industry is especially critical of the new measure: 58 percent of the companies surveyed in this sector rate the consequences as negative or very negative.

The pandemic continues to affect employment in SMEs: In the last six months, 27 percent of the survey participants had to lay off staff, the majority of them (19 percent) due to the corona crisis. This rate is higher than the share of SMEs that had anticipated redundancies in March 2021,” according to Schweizer. Companies in the mechanical and electrical engineering industries, other services such as travel agencies, or the retail trade were particularly affected. Between March 2020 and March 2021, 35 percent of SMEs had to let go staff. For the coming 12 months, one-fifth consider layoffs to be likely or very likely.

A More Optimistic Outlook

At the same time, SMEs are more optimistic about their general prospects than before: Only four out of 10 companies anticipate that COVID-19 will harm their business activities over the coming 12 months. That is the lowest rate since the beginning of the pandemic. The majority does not expect any further consequences or sees the future as positive (34 or 23 percent, respectively). In addition, two-thirds assess the current demand for their products and services as rather good to very good. "One major challenge, however, is the availability of raw materials and semi-finished products," says the ZHAW researcher. "51 percent of SMEs rate this situation as worrying or even a threat to their existence. That's more than in March 2020."

Of the companies surveyed, 43 percent applied for a COVID loan when it was offered by the Swiss government. A little over two-thirds have not yet paid it back in full. Of those SMEs who received a loan, seven percent indicate that they will not be able to completely repay it. The number is significantly smaller than in March 2021 (24 percent). However, some companies deliberately forego repayment, at least for the time being: Four out of 10 companies with an open loan would like to hang on to it for future liquidity bottlenecks.

Continuous Surveys

The most recent edition of "ZHAW Corona SME Panel" follows on from the five previous surveys conducted in March, April, June, and September 2020, and March 2021. From 15 to 26 September, ZHAW researchers conducted an online survey of small and medium-sized enterprises from all over German-speaking Switzerland. Since these already participated in previous surveys, the study shows the development of the economic situation of SMEs since the outbreak of the pandemic. In the interest of timeliness, this study is not fully representative or weighted concerning all industries and company sizes.


Andreas Schweizer, Institute of Financial Management, ZHAW School of Management and Law, phone: +41 (0)58 934 78 94, email:

Frederic Härvelid, Communications, ZHAW School of Management and Law, phone: +41 (0)58 934 51 21, email: