Swiss employment crosses five-million mark

People at work at their desks in Zurich Keystone

More than five million people have jobs in Switzerland – more than ever before – and the number of foreign workers rose twice as much as Swiss workers in the second quarter of the year, the government reported on Thursday.

This content was published on August 18, 2016

The number of people employed in Switzerland rose 1.6% between April and June compared with the same period last year, up to 5.033 million of the nation’s 8.3 million inhabitants.

The number of foreign workers with jobs rose by 2.7% to 1.54 million – more than double the 1.2% rate of growth among Swiss workers, whose numbers increased to 3.493 million.

Europe's migrant crisis

That trend eventually could collide with Switzerland's anti-immigration stance. More than one million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe mainly via the Mediterranean Sea last year, fuelling crisis and conflict over how best to resettle all the people.

Lawmakers have until 2017 to reconcile a referendum result with a pact with the European Union that guarantees the free movement of workers. Switzerland is not an EU member.

Otherwise, the Swiss government must write quotas into law regardless of any compromise with the EU.

Swiss voters approved the referendum in February 2014. It was a proposal from the conservative right People’s Party to place limits on foreigners living in the Alpine nation.

The government opposed it and implementing the vote has become an immense headache for Swiss authorities.

Youth jobs

The Swiss enjoy a low unemployment rate, though it rose slightly to 4.3%, up from 4.2%. Only four other European countries have lower rates: the Czech Republic (3.9%); Germany (4.2%); Iceland (3.8%); and Malta (4%).

In contrast, the European Union’s unemployment rate fell to 8.6%, down from 9.5%, according to survey results from the Federal Statistical Office.

Among those aged 15 to 24, unemployment rose to 6.8%, up from 6.4%, but still far below the EU’s 18.5%. 

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