New immigration law clears final hurdle
The Swiss parliament has approved a law aiming to curb immigration by giving priority to local workers at open jobs. The law stops short of imposing quotas as Swiss voters demanded in a 2014 referendum and it is hoped Switzerland should therefore avoid a clash with Brussels.
The Senate approved the revision of the immigration law –24 in favour and five against – and the House passed it 98 votes to 67 with 33 abstentions on Friday.
In the end, the parliamentary majority voted to focus on prioritising jobs instead of quotas in order to avoid a conflict with the EU that many feared could end with the cancellation of bilateral accords governing areas from trade to research funding.
The legislation passed by parliament contains measures to prioritize Swiss job-seekers over those from EU countries, such as requiring employers to post vacant positions at local unemployment offices before advertising them elsewhere. The penalty for not doing so can be up to CHF40,000 ($38,900). Employers must also invite candidates who meet their criteria and who are registered at the unemployment office for an interview.
Employers must then communicate their final hiring decision to the unemployment office.
The new measures will be restricted to parts of Switzerland and job sectors with unemployment rates higher than the average, currently at 3.3%. The map below shows current unemployment rates in all of the Swiss cantons.
In addition, border regions such as Ticino and the area near Geneva will be able to appeal to the cabinet for exceptions to the law that may complicate the situation for the more than 300,000 cross-border workers who come into Switzerland from neighbouring countries every day.
People’s Party cries foul
Members of the conservative right Swiss People’s Party, which had proposed the February 2014 referendum on quotas, argued up until the final vote that the latest parliamentary proposal violates the Constitution because it does not contain quotas and therefore fails to apply the will of the people.
The People’s Party has said that if cabinet does not intervene by February 9 with a version of the law conforming to the 2014 initiative, it will launch a new initiative “as soon as possible” to dissolve the bilateral accord with the European Union concerning the free movement of people.
Close to 1.4 million EU citizens live in Switzerland, and more than 450,000 Swiss citizens currently reside in EU countries.
swissinfo.ch and agencies