Cabinet holds fire on foreign labour quota

Citizens of Germany and 16 other European Union member states will continue to have unlimited access to the Swiss labour market for the time being.

This content was published on May 13, 2009 - 15:48

Under a labour accord with the EU, Switzerland is allowed to temporarily block access to its job market if the number of work permits issued to EU residents exceeds a certain limit.

Switzerland's seven-member cabinet has asked for further clarification before taking a decision, according to a statement on Wednesday by the justice ministry.

However, the government ruled to extend existing labour restrictions for eight eastern European countries including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, to 2011.

The economics ministry has mooted plans to protect Swiss citizens from foreign competition amid concern that the unemployment rate could soar above five per cent next year.

Joblessness has been increasing over the past few months and reached 3.5 per cent in April.

The business community and trade unions have warned that the re-introduction of a labour quota could backfire and create additional problems in the labour market.

The rightwing Swiss People's Party is the only big party to openly support restrictions for foreign labour.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member, first opened its labour market in 2002. The treaty was later extended to newer members from eastern Europe. and agencies

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