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Foreign workers prove themselves in tough times

Allowing European Union nationals to live and work in Switzerland has helped the country weather the economic recession, according to a report published on Thursday.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) and its partners gave good marks to Switzerland for its eight-year participation in agreements that have allowed freedom of movement between Switzerland and the EU and European Free Trade Association.

During that time, well trained workers from the EU and Efta countries helped fill vacancies left open by Switzerland’s relatively small workforce, meaning few foreigners took jobs away from Swiss citizens.

The influx of a skilled workforce has helped produce “exceptionally strong” economic growth in Switzerland, the report said.

As the economic climate soured, fewer foreigners came to Switzerland for work, although the net gain of immigrants remained relatively high at 68,000 in 2009.

The report also found that wage dumping had not increased, a conclusion backed by the Swiss Employers Union and the Swiss Trade Union Federation.

Switzerland’s quickly climbing unemployment rate of last year hit new arrivals disproportionately hard. Experts said various factors were to blame, including skill sets and which workers took which jobs, but most agreed that a growing base of unemployment is not expected in the long term.

Switzerland is a member of Efta but not the EU, although the country has numerous bilateral agreements with the European bloc.


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