EU immigration does not disadvantage Swiss workers

Immigration from the EU and EFTA region played an important role in meeting the labour market’s demands, especially regarding well-trained skilled workers, found the report. Keystone

Immigration from the European Union and EFTA member states to Switzerland adapts to the needs of the Swiss labour market and does not have a negative impact on the local population, a government report has found.

This content was published on July 3, 2018 - 12:01

The 14th report on the effects of free movement on Switzerland, published by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on Tuesday, found that labour immigration had not come at the expense of the rest of the population.

Despite the strong influx of EU and EFTA immigrants in recent years, the employment rate among Swiss and third-country nationals had also increased between the years 2010 and 2017, the report said.

Wages also remained stable, with the exception of the upper end of the scale, where skilled workers from the EU/EFTA region had “counteracted steeper wage growth”, SECO said.

It also revealed that immigration declined last year. In 2017, some 31,250 people moved to Switzerland from EU and EFTA countries; an 11% decrease compared to the previous year and a 50% reduction compared to record year 2013.

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Around half the people who came to Switzerland in the year 2009 left the country again within five years. It therefore could not be assumed that immigrants will remain in the Swiss labour market indefinitely, according to the report.

Demand for skilled workers

Immigration within the context of free movement of people played an important role in meeting the labour market’s demands, especially regarding well-trained skilled workers, found the report.

And according to economic forecasts, it is likely that the Swiss economy will continue its rebound this year, while immigration is not predicted to increase.

Net migration is down once again for the first half of 2018, compared to the previous year. Combined with the simultaneous economic upturn that the EU is currently experiencing, this could make it difficult for Swiss companies to recruit workers from the European Union.

Welfare risks

The report also looked at the unemployment and social welfare risks for immigrants, the results of which were broadly consistent with previous years’ findings.

Immigrants from Southern and Eastern Europe were at an increased risk of being unemployed, SECO wrote.

In 2016, some 5.55% of immigrants from EU and EFTA countries received unemployment benefits, compared to a nationwide average of 3.3% (the figure for Swiss nationals was 2.4%).

By contrast, the proportion of people living on social welfare benefits was lower for EU/EFTA immigrants – 2% compared to the national average of 3.2%. For Swiss nationals, the share was 2.6%. 

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