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Strong franc Minister wants to boost support for SMEs

The Swiss economics minister is expecting unemployment to rise, but doesn't foresee a crisis


Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann is expecting a rise in unemployment in Switzerland as a result of the strong franc, but doesn’t think there will be waves of mass redundancies. 

He also plans to continue aid for export-oriented small and medium-sized companies (SMEs). In June, Schneider-Ammann instructed the Commission for Technology and Innovation (CTI) to waive the requirement for a cash contribution for R&D funding applications for heavily export-oriented SMEs with effect from this August. 

“Now we plan to stock up the CTI’s grant funds,” he told the Schweiz am Sonntag newspaper. 

Intervening like this and “influencing the mood” was the most direct and effective means of combating the strong franc, he added. 

According to the conditions for regular CTI funding for R&D projects, businesses have to bear at least 50% of the total project costs, of which 10% of the value of the approved federal grant is to be put forward in cash towards work conducted by the research partner. Due to falling export margins this requirement acts as a disincentive to businesses otherwise keen to innovate, the CTI said in June. 

Those businesses benefitting from the cash contribution waiver are SMEs with up to 249 employees and an export share of at least 50%. 

‘Deindustrialisation danger’ 

Schneider-Ammann believed it would be difficult to maintain Switzerland’s “weak” unemployment rate of 3.1%. But even if there are job losses in certain sectors over the coming months, he doesn’t expect mass redundancies. 

However, he warned against the “danger of gradual deindustrialisation”. 

“Switzerland must not follow the example of other European countries, like France and Britain, where the service sector is practically the only thing remaining. Otherwise, we will no longer be able to provide job prospects for everyone in the country,” he said. and agencies

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