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Switzerland may impose limits on EU job seekers

ZURICH – The Swiss government may impose temporary limits on immigration for European Union job seekers amid rising unemployment in the country, Swiss newspapers reported on Sunday.

"Backed by the latest job market and migration statistics, the government will soon make a decision on the possible activation of the protection clause," justice department spokesman Philippe Piatti told NZZ am Sonntag.

Under an accord between Switzerland and the EU, EU workers can take up jobs in Switzerland without being subject to a work permit quota system.

To protect the Swiss job market from over-saturation, the deal also includes a clause allowing Bern to impose temporary restrictions if immigration grows by more than 10 percent in a year compared to the average rate in the previous three years.

A report in the Zurich-based Tages Anzeiger newspaper said the government would discuss the issue Wednesday.

Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf and Economy Minister Doris Leuthard were preparing a case for a temporary limit on immigration from the EU, it said.

If the clause was activated, immigration from the 15 older EU states would be limited to the average migration rate of the previous year plus five percent for a maximum of two years.

Such a clause has not been pencilled into an extended agreement that included the newer EU member states.

Workers from Germany and Portugal make up the two biggest groups of EU migrants in Switzerland.

Switzerland’s export-dependent economy has been hit by the global slowdown.

Unemployment rose to 3.5 percent in April from 3.4 percent in March, according to official figures reported Friday.

April’s jobless total jumped 35.5 percent from the figure a year earlier, the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) said.

Unemployment averaged 2.6 percent in 2008 against 2.8 percent in 2007.

AFP / Expatica