A scheme initiated in 2012 to help refugees find jobs has resulted in an additional 2,000 of them gaining access to the Swiss job market. Over 80% of refugees in Switzerland are dependent on state financial assistance.
The scheme, “Work – Give them a chance, seize your chance”, was a result of coordination between government agencies at the federal, cantonal and municipal level in collaboration with the private sector.
Key measures taken including offering language courses and targeting specific job sectors like cleaning, hotel and restaurants, and construction.
One example is offering language classes to refugees in the construction sector. Called “German on the construction site”, refugees are offered free German classes in their spare time and a financial bonus to take up such courses. Over 250 such courses have been offered since 2012.
The private sector has also participated in the effort. Allpura, the Swiss association of cleaning businesses, offers a three-month internship for refugees who are ready to work in the cleaning sector, where 95% of employees are foreigners. The internship comprises professional training and a language course.
Despite the many schemes to insert refugees into the workforce, barriers to entry still remain.
It is still not simple for refugees to get authorisation to work, and potential employers face extra paperwork to employ them. Refugees need a work permit to take up employment and the employer has to apply to the cantonal authorities for a work permit, which is only given if certain salary and working conditions are adhered to.
Attempts at minimising such bureaucratic hurdles are currently being discussed in parliament, as is reducing certain social benefits to make working a more attractive option for refugees.
In 2014, a total of 14,897 refugees benefited from state financial assistance, accounting for 81.2% of the total refugee population in Switzerland.