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How immigration boosts the entire Swiss economy

The foreign workforce in Switzerland has been at the centre of controversy for years. But as a new study shows, immigrants are a boost to the country’s economy.

How immigration boosts the entire Swiss economy
Most foreign workers come from the EU. Photo by SEBASTIEN BOZON / AFP

Even though some right-wing politicians have suggested that immigrants are taking jobs away from the Swiss – a claim that has been refuted by others — research shows that in reality foreign workers contribute to strengthening Switzerland’s economy.

In general terms, this question is addressed in a new study carried out by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

It found that “immigration countries recorded an average plus of two percentage points in the growth of the gross domestic product, because culturally mixed societies are more innovative. As a result, productivity and incomes also increased”.

While this study examined economic advantages of migration in all countries, and not particularly in Switzerland, there is enough evidence showing that foreign nationals benefit Swiss economy in numerous ways.

According to BCG Switzerland spokesperson Matthias Haymoz, 58 billion francs of the total gross domestic product are contributed each year directly and indirectly by immigrants. This corresponds to 8.2 percent of Switzerland’s total economic output – and is high in an international comparison.

One of the reasons for this is that Switzerland attracts a large number of highly qualified people, Haymoz said.

This finding is also supported by other data, like a report from University of Basel that examined  how Swiss economy benefits from immigration.

“In Switzerland there is a shortage of skilled labour in certain sectors of the economy. As a result, specialists in various fields have to be recruited from abroad”, according to the report.

“Highly qualified immigrants can help address this imbalance in the labour market”, said Basel economist Ensar Can.

“This relieves the pressure on companies, enabling them to continue operating and, in many cases, create new jobs – a good thing for the economy as a whole”, he added.

READ MORE: How can I have my foreign qualifications recognised in Switzerland?

Another report, issued by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), reiterates this point.

It states that the free movement of people, which allows citizens of EU and EFTA nations to work in Switzerland, is positive for the country because it meets the demands of the Swiss economy for both skilled and unskilled workers.

“Immigration from the EU / EFTA to Switzerland is strongly geared to the needs of the economy”, SECO said.

For example, the activity rate of EU nationals was 87.7 percent in 2019 — the last year for which statistics are available — compared to 84.6 percent for Swiss nationals, the report found.

Foreigners also fill other gaps in the labour market.

Compared to native Swiss employees, more foreigners have temporary jobs and work more often at night or in the evening, offering “a flexible workforce pool for companies subjected to seasonal fluctuations”, SECO said.

Also, while immigrants compensate for the shortage of high-skilled workers, the opposite is also true: they fill in low-skilled positions which are also essential for the country’s prosperity.

In what sectors do most immigrants work?

As this chart from the Federal Statistical Office indicates, most foreigners are employed in manufacturing, retail, as well as healthcare and social services sectors.

More immigrants in Switzerland in the first half of the year

In the first six months of 2021, immigration to Switzerland increased by 3.9 percent, compared to the same period of 2020, according to a new report released by the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM).

These developments are mainly due to the fact that, compared to the first pandemic wave of spring 2020, more third-country nationals came to Switzerland.

Net migration amounted to 26,008 people. In all, 2,128,812 foreigners were residing in Switzerland at the end of June 2021.

 READ MORE: An essential guide to Swiss work permits

 

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Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland's childcare costs are among the world's highest, although there are some ways to save. Originally from the United States but now raising children in Zug, writer Ashley Franzen takes you through some of the most important things you need to consider when finding childcare in Switzerland.

Five things to consider when organising childcare in Switzerland

Switzerland has a peculiar dichotomy when it comes to childcare. Although many parents both work full-time, Switzerland has traditionally been hands off when it comes to childcare support for families with children under five, leading to some of the highest childcare costs in the world. 

For older kids there is before and after-school care that is offered by the canton, but for younger kids who haven’t quite started kindergarten, it can pose problems for parents who are in need of reliable care, particularly those who don’t have grandparents to rely on. 

According to the Swiss Federal Council, “Grandparents as well as daycare centres and extra-school care facilities are the most frequently used forms of childcare, with each category accounting for a third of provision for children aged 0 to 12 years. 81 percent of families in large cities turned to extra-family care for their children compared with 66 percent of families in rural areas. Parents’ satisfaction with the care facilities is high, but there is still unmet demand.” 

What alternative childcare options do I have in Switzerland?

There are various childcare and nursery options for babies and toddlers up through young children aged five or six. Each canton offers childcare, though often there are lengthy waitlists for available spots.

READ ALSO: ‘A developing country’: Why do so few Swiss children attend childcare?

An alternative might be a private or bilingual daycare, but the costs for these are even higher than the locally-run childcares, and sometimes have longer waitlists.

Get on a list early as it’s important to get the ball rolling on paperwork, especially as a foreigner in Switzerland. 

An alternate option is to find the equivalent of a Tagesmütter, or a carer who opens up their home to taking care of up to four children at a time, when there is space available.

The costs remain about the same, but it can be easier to get placement for childcare with an in-their-own-home carer.

Some families opt to hire a nanny, but it may not be possible financially for all families. As for bringing an Au Pair to join the family, there are specific rules and regulations in Switzerland surrounding pay, number of hours they can work (about half of which you would need to be present for), and language rules– the main one being they cannot speak the same language as the family. Additionally, language classes are stipulated for the duration of their stay. 

Suffice it to say, that there are quite a few hurdles to overcome and in order to make sure your family is supported with reliable childcare to meet your needs.

Below are five things to consider as you plan out and organise childcare in Switzerland.

Children play with educational tools. (Photo by Thomas SAMSON / AFP)

1. Compare the options

Childcare in Switzerland is top notch, albeit expensive, so make sure you take the time to figure out where you want to enrol your child.

Some of the best programs are actually run as not-for-profit organisations, such as KiBiz in Zug.

READ ALSO: What alternative childcare options do I have in Zurich?

Most daycares offer a pedagogically strong curriculum and having them at a local daycare gives your child the opportunity to learn the local language. 

2. Decide on someone to name as your emergency contact

This can be a bit harder if you don’t have family or friends nearby, but double check with a colleague or someone that you trust in the case of an emergency or illness.

Finding a colleague that is willing to help by picking up the kids when they were sick when both parents find themselves out of town can be incredibly helpful. 

READ MORE: How much does it cost to raise a child in Switzerland?

3. See if you qualify for subsidies

According to the OECD, Switzerland has the highest cost for childcare among wealthy countries. Cantons are in the process of trying to increase the amount of money they’re able to allocate for assisting families with the costs.

If your household income is under a certain amount (it varies by canton), then it might be possible to have some of the costs of your family’s childcare covered. 

4. Consider having a babysitter or two on hand that you can call

As a foreign parent in Switzerland, sometimes it makes sense to have someone extra to call on for help with childcare coverage– even if you don’t think you’ll need anyone.

Meetings get moved, appointments need to be rescheduled, and sometimes there’s the odd school workday, where kids do not attend classes.

READ MORE: How to save money on childcare in Switzerland

In situations like these, having someone to reach out to, who can help provide coverage (and perhaps even the occasionally date night) helps provide a safety net for parents that might not have any backup to call at the spur of the moment. 

5. Be open for and prepared to have a hurdle or two, be it language or logistics

Many of the institutions around the country, particularly for younger kids are really good at filling in the parents on what the kids have done during the day, what they’ve eaten, how they’ve acted. The seemingly hardest part is actually filing the paperwork and piecing together care, particularly if you don’t speak the local language.

Wendy Noller is originally from Australia, and now lives in Luzern with her husband, and their two children, aged five and seven.

When they were getting signed up for Kita, she expresses that there were quite a few hurdles to consider.

READ ALSO: How different is raising kids in Switzerland compared to the United States?

Initially they received a letter from Canton Luzern stating that there weren’t enough places for their daughter. “We had heard negative reviews from other expats, but learned that there really are a lot of myths around childcare– that it’s not good quality, or there aren’t enough places. My husband and I work 100 percent and [when registering the kids], found the local authority to be both very helpful and responsive.”

She adds that she would call or email every couple days after receiving the letter to express that they both worked full-time and were really interested in their daughter integrating.

In the end, just a couple days before school started, they were told there was a place available for her. 

While their situation had a happy ending, sometimes other backup plans need to be put in place. Organising childcare in Switzerland is doable and having a fellow foreigner who has gone through it before to help share their experience or how to go about it can make a difference in how easy or how difficult it feels. 

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