Anti-immigration referendum will ‘impact Geneva’s prosperity’

Ahead of the September 27th vote on the proposal to limit immigration to Switzerland from the EU, Geneva’s authorities say that if passed, the new law would be detrimental to the canton’s economy.

Anti-immigration referendum will 'impact Geneva’s prosperity'
Switzerland needs foreign workers, Geneva authorities say. Photo by AFP

The initiative, sponsored by the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP), calls for restricting the freedom of movement between Switzerland and the European Union by implementing a cap on EU immigration. 

The SVP’s proposal requires Switzerland to regulate the immigration autonomously, and not in coordination with the EU, as it is presently.

The party argues that foreigners take the jobs away from the Swiss. 

But new government research disputes this claim, saying foreign workers have “complementary qualifications. Often, companies look for people who are specialists in a particular field and they can't find them in Switzerland. Therefore, they recruit them from abroad.” 

The voting was scheduled for May of this year, but had to be postponed due to the coronavirus health crisis.

If accepted, this measure will “undermine Geneva's' prosperity”, cantonal officials said.

“It would be an abrupt break in economic relations with our French and German neighbours and the whole of the European Union,” Pierre Maudet, the deputy in charge of Geneva’s economy, told Léman Bleu television last week. 

The situation would be especially dire in Geneva and the neighbouring canton of Vaud, where about 125,000 cross-border workers from France are employed. 

In fact, 50 percent of employees at the Geneva’s University Hospitals (HUG) come from France.

READ MORE: EU workers in Switzerland are ‘young and well educated,' new research shows 

If the immigration is restricted and border workers can no longer work in Geneva, the canton would have to find a sufficient labour force locally to fill 150,000 jobs, the State Council said.

Similar situation would occur in Switzerland’s other border cantons which rely on foreign workers, including Ticino, Valais, and Basel.

Ticino’s economy in particular depends on over 67,000 employees from Italy.

In all, 25 percent of Switzerland’s workforce comes from EU and EFTA states — the second-highest number in Europe, according to new government statistics, 

These foreigners are able to work in Switzerland thanks to the Free Movement of Persons Agreement  that the Swiss government had signed with the EU.

But if the SVP initiative is accepted at the polls on September 27th, the future of the treaty will be at risk.





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Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Zurich and Geneva have been ranked once again in the top 10 best cities to live in but not everything is so rosy about life in Switzerland's two big cities.

Why are Geneva and Zurich high among world’s ‘most liveable’ cities?

Switzerland is the only country in Europe to have two entries in the top 10 in the new Global Liveability Index: Zurich is in the third place and Geneva in the sixth.

The study, carried out by the Economist Intelligence Unit rates living conditions in 172 cities based on more than 30 factors. These are grouped into five categories: stability, health care, culture and environment, education and infrastructure. 

Both cities score high across all categories, with highest marks given for heath care (100), followed by infrastructure (96.4), and stability (95).

The difference, though minimal, between the two cities, lies in the culture and environment category, were Zurich scored 96.3 and Geneva 94.9.

The lowest score both got, 91.7, is for education, which is surprising, as Zurich’s Federal Polytechnic Institute (ETH) has been named the best university in continental Europe for several years running, including in 2022.

READ MORE: Swiss universities still highly ranked but slip in ratings

The overall result, however, is not exactly a surprise, because the two cities (and sometimes also Basel, Bern, and Lausanne) frequently rank in the Top 10 places to live in the world.

Paradoxically, Switzerland’s two largest cities also routinely take top spots as the most expensive places to live in. For instance, both were ranked among the costliest for international residents in a survey published on June 14th.

So the obvious question is, how can two most expensive cities also be among most ‘liveable’?

At least part of the answer may lie in different criteria used to measure the quality of life versus costs.

The concept of quality of life defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which was also adapted in Switzerland, includes categories such as  health, education, environmental quality, personal security, civic engagement, and work-life balance.

Swiss cities (and Switzerland in general) scores high in all these categories, which explains the overall top rankings.

The cost of living, on the other hand, is determined by calculating prices of goods and services that are essential parts of individual or household spending.

These prices are totalled and averaged, and indexes are created to help compare costs of living in different locations.

As prices for basic necessities such as housing, health insurance, food, and public transportation, are much higher in Switzerland than in most of Europe, the country always ranks among the most expensive in the world.

However, as The Local explained in a recent article, in order to get a more accurate assessment of the cost of living, prices should be looked at in the context of purchasing power parity (PPP) — that is, the financial ability of a person or a household to buy products and services with their wages.

An in depth analysis by a digital employment platform Glassdoor concluded that in Switzerland (along with Denmark, and Germany) the average city-based worker can afford to buy 60 percent or more goods and services with his or her salary than residents of New York.

READ MORE : EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s cost of living isn’t as high as you think

And there’s more to the equation…

Most, if not all, participants in the global quality / standard of living indexes are international residents in each surveyed country — people who are typically high earners and have sufficient income to live well. That skews the results somewhat.

For instance, the Quality of Living Ranking conducted annually by asset management firm Mercer, bases its findings on responses by expatriate employees — people who work in high-level, well-paid executive positions — rather than those in lower-level jobs, like in retail or restaurant sector.

 READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland?