Financial officers worried by immigration vote

Tiny majority, big difference: business leaders in Switzerland are unsettled by voters' decision to curb EU immigration Keystone

A large majority of chief financial officers (CFOs) of Swiss companies are unnerved about the fallout from the recent vote against European Union immigration. They cite concerns for the Swiss business landscape as well as for their own companies.

This content was published on March 27, 2014 - 13:17 and agencies

Of the 111 companies surveyed by consultants Deloitte, 88% said they expected negative consequences to befall Switzerland as a result of the February 9 vote. Only 6% expected positive outcomes.

In addition, 69% of CFOs anticipated negative fallout for their own businesses, while 29% didn’t expect anything to change after the decision to re-establish quotas on immigrants to Switzerland from the EU.

According to Deloitte chief economist Michael Grampp, CFOs specifically worried about attracting employees and a lack of market access to EU countries. Quotas, they said, could result in their not being able to find enough qualified workers, a problem that could become particularly acute for certain branches.

Those surveyed said the worst-case scenario for them would be an end to Swiss bilateral agreements with the EU. Export-dependent businesses were especially concerned about this possibility.

Be prepared

Despite those fears, Grampp said businesses hadn’t panicked – out of the 111 firms, only one said it was considering relocating outside Switzerland.

“CFOs aren’t sticking their heads in the sand, but they are preparing for the future,” he said, adding that 21% were planning to recruit more heavily from abroad before the possible end to the free movement of people.

Furthermore, 35% were preparing for the possibility of a quota system being introduced, which would also affect their administrative processes. 

Grampp concluded that CFOs from outside Switzerland foresaw more negative consequences from the vote than those from Switzerland, possibly because the former mostly get their information from foreign media which painted a more negative picture of the vote.

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