Recruiting foreign professionals has become easier for Swiss companies thanks to the free movement of people agreement between Switzerland and the European Union.
Over the past 11 years, this has had a positive impact on the nation’s economic development, according to a report released by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) on Tuesday.
SECO found that the Swiss labour market had proved receptive to the influx of workers from EU and European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA) countries, and that there had been few negative effects in terms of displacement of local workers or wage dumping.
Over the past two years, the European financial crisis has significantly influenced the flow of immigration. There are now more workers arriving from southern and eastern Europe, and fewer from Germany.
Between 2002 and 2012, some 63,300 people per year came to live and perhaps work in Switzerland. Of these, 38,400 were from EU/EFTA countries – including 16,300 Germans and 7,500 Portuguese.
With 90,000 immigrants, the year 2008 was exceptional. The financial crisis led to a big drop in 2009, but by 2010 there was an increase again. In comparison, there were only 26,400 people coming into Switzerland per year between 1991 and 2001 – most of them from outside Europe.
More qualified workers
Between 2002 and 2012, the overall number of employees in Switzerland grew by 565,000. Half of these people were Swiss or foreigners who had settled here, while short-term and cross-border workers accounted for the other half.
Most of the foreign workers from Europe were highly qualified. Of those hired through the free movement of people accord, 53 per cent held a university degree. In comparison, only 34 per cent of Swiss workers have such a level of education.
Three categories of workers accounted for 60 per cent of new hires in Switzerland during that time: managers, academics and technical professionals.
The report also noted that unemployment in Switzerland has remained stable since the 1990s. Between 2003 and 2012, Swiss citizens faced the lowest incidence of unemployment. There is a higher unemployment rate among non-Swiss in Switzerland, with Europeans generally being better integrated in the Swiss workforce.