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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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For members


REVEALED: The Swiss cities turning off their lights for weekend meteor shower

The Perseids is one of the best annual meteor showers, showing their fireballs on warm summer nights in the northern hemisphere. In Switzerland, some towns want to make the event even more special by turning off their lights.

REVEALED: The Swiss cities turning off their lights for weekend meteor shower

Every year, skywatchers get ready for the Perseid meteor shower, which in 2022 is going to peak in the early hours of Saturday, just before dawn. At its peak, it will be possible to see about 200 shooting starts per hour if the conditions are optimal.

The Perseids, as this particular meteor shower is known, are fragments of the comet Swift-Tuttle. Its small dust particles (not actual stars) burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere at high speed. They can be observed worldwide but are best viewed in the northern hemisphere.

READ ALSO: Five beautiful Swiss villages located near Alpine lakes

And they may be in large parts of Switzerland. Despite the full moon blocking some of the views (don’t worry, the moon should set at around 2 am), the skies should be clear of clouds during the early hours of Saturday, according to the Swiss meteorology agency MeteoSchweiz.

Some cities also want to remove another major obstacle to stargazing: the artificial lightning that hides most of our stars, the Milky Way, and many shooting stars. The Projet Perseides invites Swiss towns to turn off municipal lights and incentivise stargazing.

The project, created in the French-speaking cantons, has gathered support mainly in western Swiss, but, according to the organisers: “Ultimately, we are targeting the whole of Europe”.

Which cities are participating?

You can find the complete list of municipalities here. The communes include Champagne, Grandson, La Chaux, Lausanne, Neuchâtel, Provence, Yverdon-les-Bains, Fribourg, and more than 100 others.

The project invites the municipalities to turn off their public lightning and convince citizens and businesses to do the same – all voluntarily.

READ ALSO: Travel: What are the best night train routes to and from Switzerland?

Projet Perseides started in Orbe in 2019 when the non-profit association convinced the town and surrounding municipalities to turn out the lights. In 2020, nearly 120 Vaud cities joined the project. The following year, they were joined by cities in Valais, Fribourg and Neuchâtel, according to the site.

What if my city is not among them?

Even if your city is not a part of the project, it is still possible to watch the phenomenon. The best time would be between 2 am (when the bright full moon sets) and pre-dawn hours, so until around 5 am.

The association says: “to enjoy the night, don’t look at light sources. Let your eyes become accustomed to the darkness”. This includes ditching your phone for a few hours.

If you can visit a part of town with little artificial light, perhaps going up a mountain, for example, you also improve your chances of seeing more of the shower.