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European migration Swiss to retain high proportion of foreigners

Europe's migration crisis offers nations a way to replace aging labor pools.


An analysis of migration data shows the Swiss can expect to have one of the highest European proportions of foreigners in their midst next year.

London-based market intelligence firm Euromonitorexternal link said in a statement on Thursday that Switzerland tops such rankings among selected Western European countries, followed by Austria and Ireland. For sheer numbers, Germany is first, followed by the United Kingdom and Italy.

Switzerland experienced a net gain of more than 38,000 foreigners who became permanent residents in the first half of 2015, which helps explains how nearly a quarter of the population has a foreign passport.

Most of Switzerland’s foreign permanent resident population are of European origin, either from the European Union or the common market areas of the European Free Trade Association.

The biggest contributors were Italy, 15.8%; Germany, 15.2%; Portugal, 13.5%; France, 6.1%; and Kosovo, 5.5%, according to Swiss government figures.

Replacing labour pools

Media Eghbal, head of countries' analysis at Euromonitor International, said the migration crisis gripping Europe as a result of the Syria war shows no sign of abating in 2016.

But that could fill shrinking labour pools in 27 European nations where the working-age population is expected to decline next year, according to Eghbal.

Almost half the Syrian refugees that the United Nations registered in October were between 18 and 59 years old.

The median age of the Swiss population is 42 years old, about the same or slightly younger than some other leading European economies, Euromonitor data shows.

Fear of immigration

Despite their high percentage of foreigners with a Swiss passport, and their relatively low intake of refugees compared with other European nations, the Swiss have been more agitated than usual about immigration and how foreign cultures might affect their nation’s cohesion.

Swiss voters in February 2014 narrowly approved a rightwing populist measure to place more restrictions on foreigners, against the better advice of the government and business leaders who warned it would harm the economy and EU relations.

Because Switzerland remains outside the European Union, however, it is not obliged to take in refugees as most EU members are its mandatory relocation allotments for handling asylum seekers.

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