Switzerland sees record high immigration from European countries

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Switzerland sees record high immigration from European countries
EU workers have easy access to Swiss labour market. Photo: Pixabay

Switzerland has seen record immigration from European countries and a new report reveals a correlation with the country's low unemployment rate.


Lots of data indicates that Switzerland needs foreign workers to fill job vacancies.

Now a report from the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) confirms the importance that employees from the European Union and EFTA (Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein) have had for Switzerland’s labour market and economy in general. 

That is why “demand for foreign labour was strong in Switzerland in 2023,” SECO said in its annual report published on Monday, which assessed the impact that the Free Movement of Persons agreement (FMPA) has had on the country’s employment.

In 2023, 68,000 people from EU and EFTA countries came to work in Switzerland, according to SECO, driven by “employment growth that has significantly exceeded the EU average.”

Why does Switzerland need EU / EFTA workers?

Simply put, they are needed for the country’s economy to function optimally.

As SECO pointed out, while the number of pensioners is growing (due mostly to Switzerland’s exceptionally high life expectancy), “Swiss working-age population has experienced only slow growth over the past 20 years.”

“The country's economic growth is not possible without immigration,” said Simon Wey, chief economist at the Swiss Employers' Union. “We need foreign labour if we want to maintain our level of prosperity."  

READ ALSO: How EU immigrant workers have become 'essential' for Switzerland 


In what sectors is the need for these workers the highest?

“A large number of people from the EU coming to work in Switzerland are highly qualified and are employed in demanding activities in high-growth branches of the service sector, such as the branch of special, scientific and technical activities, that of information and communication or the health sector;” SECO’s report said.

But the Swiss economy also recruits EU nationals as low-skilled labour, particularly in the hotel and catering industry, as well as construction and industry.

Why are only people from the EU / EFTA states recruited?

The reason is that, unlike nationals of third countries, people from the EU / EFTA have an almost unlimited access to the Swiss employment market, thanks precisely to the FMPA. 

Also, those coming from the neighbour countries (as most of Switzerland’s foreign labour force does), have the required language skills to easily integrate into the workforce in language-appropriate Swiss regions.



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