Small steps to prevent shortage of skilled labour

Schneider-Ammann is cautiously optimistic that the gap between industry demands for skilled labour and the working age population can be reduced Marcel Bieri

Economics Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann has announced renewed efforts to address the lack of skilled workers in Switzerland – the result of the ageing population and immigration curbs.

This content was published on September 19, 2014 - 18:33

He presented a list of measures, including further training, improved compatibility of work and family, integration of older staff as well as tax breaks for double-income couples.

However, Schneider-Ammann acknowledged the powers of the government were limited. He called on employers, cantons and employers to cooperate to boost the integration of skilled workers into the Swiss labour market.

“It is crucial for all sides to realise the urgency to act and to prevent a serious lack of skilled workers,” he told a news conference.

Schneider-Ammann said Switzerland’s prosperity relied on its competitive economy and on a low unemployment rate. It stands at 3.3% on average over the past 18 years.

Currently 88% of men and 79% of women make up the Swiss working age population.

Schneider-Ammann added that there was time until 2017, when immigration curbs approved by voters in February must be implemented, to ensure that Switzerland will not suffer from a lack of qualified staff across the different sectors.

Engineers and health

The package of measures presented on Friday covers the promotion of natural sciences and engineering at school as well as training opportunities for doctors and other health workers.

The economics ministry is also considering ways to boost part-time work, notably attracting more women to the labour market and to encourage innovation projects.

Parliament earlier this month approved continued government funding for extended child care facilities in an effort to improve the work family balance.

In addition, talks are underway with the main farmers association to grant refugees and asylum seekers easier access to the Swiss labour market.

Schneider-Ammann also mooted the idea of employing an increasing number of young civilian service servants in schools and creches.

He stressed that the government skilled labour campaign was launched in 2011 and that progress has been made over the past three years, notably by the industry to offer additional apprenticeship positions.

Cautious optimism

Schneider-Ammann said he was cautiously optimistic that the cantonal authorities, universities and the industry were aware of the challenges, despite difficulties.

“It is not easy to find additional skilled workers,” he said. “I’m under no illusions that we only be able to will move ahead in small steps.”

Critics, notably from the political left, have voiced disappointment about previous efforts by the government.

The Social Democrats on Friday called on Schneider-Ammann to “deliver the goods” and finally move beyond “fine words”. The Greens criticised the economics minister was slow in taking action.

For its part, Schneider-Ammann’s centre-right Radical Party has welcomed the package of measures.

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