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Competitiveness report WEF warns Switzerland about dangers of populism

Scientists work in a clean room at the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL)


For the sixth year in a row Switzerland is the most competitive country in the world, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). But there are clouds on the horizon in the form of anti-immigration initiatives. 

As in previous years, Switzerland benefits from the transparency of its institutions, its innovation and research capacity, excellent cooperation between the private and public sectors, an efficient labour market, its education system and infrastructure, said the WEF, in its annual competitiveness reportexternal link published on Wednesday. 

However, this year the Geneva-based organisation warned that the increasing difficulties experienced by companies in attracting skilled workers threatened the country’s competitive future. 

Since 2012, Switzerland has dropped from 14th to 24th on the indicator measuring the availability of engineers and scientists. Business leaders who replied to the report cited finding skilled staff was the biggest problem when doing business with Switzerland. 

Potential skills shortage 

“The acceptance of the people’s initiative on February 9 [when 50.3% of voters backed limiting EU immigration] hasn’t yet had an effect on the competitiveness of the Swiss economy. We still don’t know how it will be implemented,” said Thierry Geiger, director of the WEF. 

“However, the multiplication of popular initiatives could threaten Switzerland’s ability to innovate by attracting talent. If in future access to the labour market is limited, that could result in a skills shortage. It’s a significant challenge to deal with.” 

As in 2013, Singapore ranks second, ahead of the United States, which climbed two places. Then follow Finland, Germany, Japan, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Britain and Sweden. 

Switzerland’s other two neighbours don’t come out of the study particularly well: France and Italy are stagnating in 23rd and 49th place respectively. This is due to a failure to implement reforms, according to the report’s authors. 

On November 30, Swiss voters will have their say on an initiative of the environmentalist group Ecopop that aims to protect the environment and natural resources by limiting immigration to 0.2% of annual population growth. and agencies


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