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Seasonal labour Why Swiss unemployment money is paid to Portuguese

Many foreign workers can claim unemployment benefits in their home countries during winter breaks. In order to comply with the free movement of people regulation, Switzerland has to pay the costs. (SRF/

Last year Switzerland paid unemployment benefits for 27,000 people living abroad. That’s almost CHF200 million. Most of the money goes to people living near the Swiss border in France, Italy or Germany, who have either lost their jobs in Switzerland or have resigned. Foreign workers are benefiting from an EU regulation related to the free movement of people, which obligates Switzerland to contribute money to EU states. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) totally underestimated the costs initially.

The overall unemployment rate in Switzerland has risen to 5.1% – the worst figures in six years – as reactions to the strong franc continue. There are now some 249,000 people out of work in Switzerland, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO). This is 37,000 more than in the same period last year. The latest ILO figures show a more marked increase in the jobless rates of foreigners and 15- to 24-year-olds.

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