Number of highly-qualified immigrants soars in Switzerland

Skilled migration to Switzerland more than doubled in the quarter century from 1991 to 2014, a new study shows.

Number of highly-qualified immigrants soars in Switzerland
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Since the turn of the century, there has been a boom in immigration into Switzerland. At the same time, there has been a steep rise in the number of skilled immigrants entering the country, according to an article published as part of the Social Change in Switzerland series.

The study shows that 30,000 new immigrants with tertiary qualifications entered the country in 1991. By the year 2000, that figure was 40,000 and by 2007 it was 60,000.

Read also: Here are the jobs the need filling in Switzerland

Over half of all immigrants in Switzerland are now highly qualified, the study notes.

Figures from the Migration-Mobility Survey carried out by the University of Neuchâtel show the percentage varies depending on place of origin.

A total of 97 percent of Indians arriving in Switzerland had tertiary qualifications from 2006 to 2016, while this figure was 94 percent for people from the US and 91 percent for Brits.

At the other end of the scale, 24 percent of people arriving from Portugal were highly qualified, and this figure was 44 percent for West Africans.

The study’s authors noted, however, that these figures could be skewed as people taking part in the Migration-Mobility Survey were more likely to have tertiary qualifications.

The overall percentage of immigrants with tertiary qualifications in the survey was equal for men and women at 62 percent.

Read also: This is how much people earn in Switzerland

The rise in the number of highly-qualified immigrants in Switzerland is a result of demand in the Swiss workplace, the study authors say. They note that the latest data shows that over half of the highly-qualified European immigrants already had a job contract before they moved to Switzerland.

However, the study also notes that this group of foreign workers played a secondary role to Swiss workers from 2010 to 2013, making up less than 30 percent of all highly-qualified employees in Switzerland as a new generation of younger Swiss workers with higher qualifications than their parents and grandparents entered the workforce.

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Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

The Covid pandemic hit Switzerland hard, although the country's largest city has rebounded strongly.

Jobs: Why Zurich has rebounded better than other Swiss cities from Covid

Measures imposed due to the Covid pandemic, which began in earnest in February 2020, shuttered businesses across the country and pushed many people out of work. 

When most notable Covid rules were relaxed in Switzerland in mid-February 2022, the economic recovery – highlighted by a strong job market – began in earnest in 2021. 

READ MORE: How the Swiss job market rebounded from the Covid pandemic

Nowhere was this more evident than Zurich, Switzerland’s largest and most economically powerful city. 

How did Zurich rebound from the Covid pandemic in comparison to the rest of the country?

Even though Zurich, along with other large Swiss cities like Geneva, Basel, Bern and Lausanne, have been hit hard by the pandemic from the employment perspective, Zurich’s labour market is now growing faster than in other urban centres.

One of the reasons for this upward trend is that young, well-educated foreigners are coming back.

In the first nine months of 2021, the city’s population grew significantly.

In September alone, it recorded 2,200 additional residents.

This is mainly due to people with a B residence permit, according to Klemens Rosin, methodologist at Zurich’s Statistics Office.

During the crisis, far fewer of them left the city. “This group is made up of well-educated, younger and mobile foreigners who have made a significant contribution to Zurich’s growth”, Rosin said.

Zurich’s employment market is expect to grow even further.

READ MORE: How hard is finding work in Zurich without speaking German?

That’s because in the coming years, many Zurich workers will retire — an estimated  210,000 by year 2050 — creating more job opportunities for younger employees.

In fact, according to a study commissioned by the canton in 2021, if Zurich’s economy is to continue to flourish, it will need around 1.37 million workers by mid-century.

If these vacancies will not be filled, then income, tax revenue and the financing of social security programs will be impacted.

READ MORE: Have your say: What’s the best way to find a job in Zurich

While it is difficult to predict what jobs will be most in demand in 2050 — what new technologies will emerge in the meantime — right now and in medium term, IT workers will be especially needed, experts say, because businesses will continue to to digitalise and automate.

Lower skilled jobs will also be in higher demand, including hospitality, retail and transport. 

With hundreds of thousands of vacancies to fill, people with the permission to work in Switzerland are likely to be flush with offers – particularly skilled workers with recognised qualifications. 

READ MORE: Why finding a job in Switzerland is set to become easier