“Each year the economy brings tens of thousands of people into our country, while many very well educated Swiss are not working,” Sommaruga said on Tuesday during a speech at Parliament Square in Bern.
The minister called on employers to make working conditions for women more attractive by encouraging family-friendly arrangements and offering salaries equal to those received by men, newspaper Tages Anzeiger reported.
Many are critical of the announcement, which is seen as a tactic by Sommaruga to backtrack on the previously pro-immigration stance of her Social Democratic Party ('SP').
“This is a diversion from the government’s failed migration policy,” Swiss People’s Party representative, Natalie Rickli, told the paper.
“The SP has a problem with the movement of persons," economics professor Reiner Eichenberger told the newspaper.
"For years it has considered unchecked immigration a good thing, now it realizes that the large numbers of immigrants are not well received by the electorate,”
Eichenberger doubts that increasing the number of women in the workplace would slow the pace of immigration, believing instead that it would result in greater economic growth for Switzerland, and ultimately the need to fill additional jobs.
“If more local women pursue jobs or increase their workload, this leads to higher incomes and an increased demand for goods and services. This demand in turn creates new jobs that are filled by foreign workers,” Eichenberger said.
Philipp Müller of the Free Democratic Party praised Sommaruga, believing that better working and childcare arrangements should be put in place.
Women make up a higher share of the workforce in Switzerland than in any other European country, according to statistics reported by the Tages Anzeiger. Six out of ten Swiss women above the age of 15 years are in paid work.
Switzerland also has the highest number of women in part-time work, with nearly 60 percent of Swiss women working on a part-time basis.
Of this number, approximately 200,000 are considered “underemployed”, meaning that they would work more if circumstances allowed. A third of this figure would rather work full-time.