The free movement of people in Europe has more positive effects than negative effects on the Swiss labour market, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), which published its annual report on Monday.
SECO’s 16th report on the free movement of people between Switzerland and the EU found immigration from EU and EFTA countries (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) remained stable in 2019. Net immigration from these regions came to around 30,700 people, compared with 31,200 in 2018. This is more than half the figure in the record year of 2013, which saw the net arrival of 68,000 people.
Net immigration from third countries fell by 2,700 people to 20,800 in 2019.
The level of immigration from EU and EFTA countries depends mainly on the demand for labour in Switzerland, the report noted. Since 2010, the number of workers from southern and eastern Europe has increased more than those from the north and west of the continent. This is due to the economic situation in these countries, it said.
No effect on wages
SECO reported no negative effects on the wages of the local population. Between 2008 and 2018, the median wage of the Swiss population increased by 0.8%. In 2018, the median monthly salary stood at CHF6,873 ($7,260).
EU/EFTA-related immigration also has a positive impact on state welfare. Regarding old-age and invalidity pensions, foreign nationals make a crucial contribution to the financing and consolidation of social security, according to the report.
The immigrant workforce is also more flexible. They are more likely to work at night or in the evening than the Swiss-born workforce.
On September 27, the Swiss will vote on whether to scrap Switzerland’s freedom of movement agreement with the EU.