Switzerland steps up drive to integrate Ukrainian refugees in workforce

Cantons and companies are working with the Swiss government to offer Ukrainian refugees more jobs. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss cantons have so far handed out at least 1,500 work permits to the 57,000 refugees who have arrived from Ukraine.

This content was published on June 16, 2022 minutes

Ministers are meeting with employers and cantons to work out ways to increase the number of refugees joining the workforce.

Not every Ukrainian refugee wants to stay in Switzerland in the long-term. But every effort should be made to give jobs to those who want one, said Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter on Thursday.

That’s why the Swiss government is shelling out CHF3,000 ($3,000) per person on language courses.

Of the 57,000 refugees in Switzerland, 31,000 are of working age. Because official records take time to update, the number of employment permits for refugees with special protection ‘S status’ is probably more than 1,500.

Canton Zurich (256) has issued the most permits, followed by Aargau (201), Bern (144) and Thurgau (140). Most refugee workers are entering the hospitality, IT, agriculture and education sectors.

The Swiss Secretariat for Migration (SEM) says that Ukrainian refugees with status S, as with other provisionally admitted persons in need of protection, do not count towards the quota for foreign workers from third-tier countries.

Keller-Sutter said that jobs provide more than just income – employment helps refugees integrate better into society and make a contribution to their adopted country.

The justice minister, who is responsible for immigration, was joined by Economic Minister Guy Parmelin on a tour of companies that employ Ukrainian refugees.

The two ministers are gathering feedback on the current situation that may form the basis further government action in future.

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