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No quotas, say business leaders

Swiss economists say it’s important to foster local talent, like these new media students in Basel. Keystone

Switzerland’s leading business groups say that strict quotas are not the way to handle last February’s vote to limit immigration – nor is cancelling bilateral agreements with other European countries. 

The fact that voters rejected the Ecopop initiative in November shows that the Swiss “don’t want a corset so tight that it cuts off the economy’s oxygen,” said Heinz Karrer, president of economiesuisse (Swiss Business FederationExternal link), at a media conference on Thursday. 

Rather than backing out of its free movement of people agreements with EU and EFTA countries and having a firm cap on immigrants, Switzerland could add clauses that would highlight the need for action once immigration numbers hit a certain level – which the Swiss government could define. 

“A Swiss immigration model would have better chances if it is based on rules that are familiar within the EU,” said Hans Hess, president of engineering group Swissmem. He argued that strict quotas were not compatible with the free movement of people. 

The members of economiesuisse, Swissmem, Science Industries Switzerland and the Swiss Employers’ Association also suggested sinking the demand for foreign workers through better use of local talent. 

Lastly, they called on the state to stop creating jobs, noting that there had been a boom in civil sector employment since the mid-1990s. Instead they urged the state to ensure that any new jobs be “productive” or related to education. 

“Only through joint efforts of the state and the economy can immigration be reduced sustainably without harming Switzerland’s well-being,” said the groups in a joint statementExternal link.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR