Foreign workers make a significant contribution to Switzerland's prosperity. However, immigration and population growth also have consequences for society. Where problems arise, the Confederation, cantons, cities and social partners must provide specific solutions. The position underlined at a press conference held on Monday by the three federal councillors Simonetta Sommaruga, Johann Schneider-Ammann and Didier Burkhalter, and the president of the Conference of Cantonal Governments, Cantonal Councillor Pascal Broulis, is that the initiative fails to provide any answers to these challenges.
Switzerland's current immigration policy, based on the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the European Union and limited access from third countries, has proven to be effective and has been clearly confirmed on several occasions by the Swiss people and the cantons. Foreign workers make a significant contribution to Switzerland's prosperity. The Swiss economy has relied on foreign workers for decades. Manufacturing, construction, healthcare, academia and research, gastronomy and agriculture are dependent on workers from abroad.
Quotas limit options for businesses
The "Stop mass immigration" Initiative demands quotas on residence permits granted to all foreign nationals. These quotas will limit the options available to Swiss businesses. Immigration is currently influenced and controlled mainly by the economic climate in Switzerland and the related demand for workers, especially qualified professionals.
The Swiss economy is in excellent shape by international comparison, thanks in part to the free movement of workers. Switzerland has one of the lowest levels of unemployment in the world.
Relations with the EU jeopardised
The free movement of persons is a key pillar in Switzerland's relations with the EU, as well as with its member states. The agreement on the free movement of persons is also a key element of the bilateral path which has proven its worth in recent decades and guarantees Switzerland prosperity and security. The Federal Council and the Swiss people have affirmed their support for the bilateral path on a number of occasions.
Approval of the initiative would jeopardise long-established bilateral relations with the European Union. Switzerland would no longer be able to fulfil the conditions of the agreement on the free movement of persons. As all the treaties in the first series of bilateral agreements are legally connected with one another by the ‘guillotine clause', there could also be repercussions on the other agreements in the series.
In turn this would severely limit the ability of Swiss businesses to access the European Single Market and weaken Switzerland's position as a business location in terms of its European competitors. Swiss businesses would then find it difficult to recruit the necessary staff and would be faced with new hurdles when exporting their goods to the EU market.
In contrast, the bilateral path enables Swiss businesses to access certain sectors of the European Single Market without Switzerland's independence being called into question. The EU is Switzerland's largest trade partner: the EU accounts for two-thirds of Switzerland's foreign trade (56% of exports, 75% of imports).
Domestic reforms instead of bureaucratic barriers
The Federal Council is aware that the growth in the resident population increases the need for reform in the labour and housing markets and in the areas of infrastructure and transport. However, this need for reform exists regardless of immigration levels. For example, mobility in Switzerland has generally increased: Swiss people spend more time commuting and travel further distances than they did a few years ago. The Confederation, cantons and communes, working closely with the private sector, are looking to meet the various challenges by continuing to invest in public transport, maintaining excellent salary and employment conditions, protecting the landscape and ensuring that families can obtain affordable housing.
Address for enquiries:
Agnès Schenker, FDJP Information Service, T +41 31 325 40 05
Rudolf Christen, EAER Information Service, T +41 31 322 39 60
FDFA Information Service, T +41 31 322 31 53
Cantonal Councillor Pascal Broulis, President of the CCG, T +41 79 435 01 78