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Report gives thumbs up to EU labour accord

At this construction site in French-speaking Switzerland, workers protest against wage dumping Keystone

An accord between Switzerland and the European Union on the free movement of people has not had any significant negative impacts on the Swiss job market.

This content was published on June 29, 2006 - 15:59

This was the main finding of a government report published on Thursday which concluded that the agreement has not led to a new wave of immigration, nor has it greatly affected salary levels or unemployment rates.

The report, by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco) and the migration and statistics offices, reviewed the job market over three-and-a-half years from June 1, 2002 when the accord came into affect.

It eases residence and working restrictions on Swiss seeking employment in the "old" 15 EU states as well as Iceland and Norway and for people from these countries looking for work in Switzerland.

However, access to the labour market remains subject to a permit until the end of May next year.

The authors of the report said there was a slight increase in the number of people from the EU seeking work in Switzerland but this was offset by a drop in immigration from non-EU countries.

Germans accounted for 56 per cent of the new immigrants.

The report found that Swiss regions close to the border with Germany, France and Italy were most affected by the rise.

The largest increase was recorded in academic and technical fields. The number of EU residents who took low-skill jobs had stagnated or in some cases declined.

Wage dumping

Neither was wage dumping a cause for concern. The report said that salary levels mirrored the ups and downs of the economy. Salary rises were both above and below average in branches most attractive to a foreign workforce.

The authors concluded that there have been no grounds up until now to fear that Swiss workers would lose their jobs to EU nationals willing to work for less pay.

As part of the agreement, the Swiss government has stepped up on-site inspections to ensure employers and employees were adhering to the law regarding pay levels.

In the last six months of 2004, 2.5 per cent of the workers checked were earning less than prescribed. Inspections were stepped up last year, and the number of abuses reported rose considerably to 16 per cent, but the authors said this was to be expected since the inspectors focused on particularly sensitive branches.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

A first report on the impact of the labour accord was published in June 2005.
It concluded that it had not led to a wave of immigration, wage dumping or more jobless.
Unemployment rate: 3.3% (May 2006).

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In brief

The accord on the free movement of people - aimed at giving easier access to the job markets – came into force in June, 2002.

Last year Swiss voters agreed to extend the deal the ten new EU member states, mainly in eastern Europe.

The labour accord is one 16 bilateral agreements between Brussels and Switzerland.

The government in its latest policy paper on Europe says it wants to focus on bilateral accords, but doesn't rule out other options – including full EU membership – in the long term.

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