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

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

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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