At the age of 15, girls completing compulsory education in Switzerland mention commercial employee as their top choice of occupation, followed by doctor, nursery worker, healthcare assistant, primary school teacher, kindergarten teacher, lawyer, retail clerk, fashion designer and veterinarian. Seven of the original choices remain in their top-ten list when these girls reach the age of 21, although the order of preference changes. Three new occupations (physiotherapist, policewoman and interior designer) replace the original occupations (commercial employee, retail clerk and veterinarian) that they had listed six years earlier.
At the age of 15, boys completing compulsory education in Switzerland mention IT specialist, professional athlete, car mechanic, commercial employee and lawyer as their top choices. Also quite popular are cook, architect, electrician, carpenter and pilot. Six years later, at age 21, they mostly set their aspirations higher. Instead of pursuing lower status occupations, the young men mention more prestigious professions such as manager, primary school teacher, engineer, police officer, sports coach or doctor.
These and other findings from researchers Irene Kriesi (SFIVET) and Ariane Basler (UZH) are based on data from the Swiss Survey on Children and Youth (COCON) and can be found in the latest issue of the journal Social Change in Switzerland.
Overall, the results show that the occupational aspirations of young people are strongly correlated with education trajectory and gender: young women tend to set their career aspirations lower than young men. This may partly explain why young women - despite better academic performance - quickly fall behind in the labour market and are outperformed by young men in the same age group both in terms of job position and income.