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Swiss labour market attracts more Germans


In Switzerland one worker in five is foreign, with a growing number of workers coming from northern Europe – in particular neighbouring Germany.

But figures for 2004 issued by the Federal Statistics Office showed the percentage of Italians and Spaniards working in Switzerland had dropped.

Official statistics recorded 817,000 foreign workers in Switzerland in the second quarter of 2004, up 0.4 per cent compared with the year before. The figure does not include cross-border workers, temporary workers or asylum seekers.

The number of foreigners comprised 20.6 per cent of the working population of just under four million.

Western Europeans first

Among Switzerland’s foreign workers, 508,000 – or 62.2 per cent – came from European Union countries as well as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.

Compared with 2003, there was a 3.8 per cent increase in people from northern and western Europe. The biggest rise was in the number of Germans – up 6,000 or 7.9 per cent.

Germans now comprise around ten per cent of the foreign workforce.

The figures come as Germany is bracing for its highest jobless rate in 60 years with five million people unemployed.

At the same time there was a fall in the number of workers from southern Europe in Switzerland – down 7,000 or 2.1 per cent. There were three per cent fewer Italian workers, and 5.1 per cent fewer Spaniards and Greeks in employment, while the number of Portuguese was up 1.7 per cent.

Education levels

The Federal Statistics Office said the highest percentage of well-educated workers came from northern and western Europe.

There were marked educational differences between the southern European workforces and those from the Balkans, it said. Second- and third-generation migrants from these areas were better qualified than the first generation.

The length of time spent in Switzerland played a role in the jobs foreigners occupied, the federal office said on Thursday.

One third of those living in Switzerland for less than ten years were managers or worked in an academic or scientific field. That figure fell to 13 per cent among those who had lived in the country for more than ten years.

As part of a bilateral treaty with Brussels Switzerland last June lifted labour restrictions for citizens from EU countries.

swissinfo with agencies

Working population in Switzerland (2nd quarter 2004):
3.142 million Swiss.
817,000 foreigners.
Foreign workers from northwestern Europe: 184,000.
Foreign workers from southern Europe: 313,000

The number of Germans working in Switzerland increased last year compared with 2003. The number of Italians, Spaniards and Greeks fell.

Workers from northern and western Europe are amongst the best educated. Among migrants from southern Europe and the Balkans the second and third generation are better qualified than the first generation.

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SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR

SWI - a branch of Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR