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Switzerland halves non-EU work permits

Published on 07/12/2009

Geneva -- Switzerland announced Friday it would halve from 2010 its quotas of permits for workers from outside Europe, with unemployment and immigration at high levels.

The Swiss government also announced a drop in immigration from EU countries and so held back on invoking a clause that would allow it to temporarily bar European workers to protect its job market.

For workers outside of Europe, "A maximum of 2,000 residency permits and 3,500 short-term residency permits can be issued next year, half for the year underway," it said in a statement.

These quotas could be revised in June, it said.

The government also said it would decide in 2010 whether to activate a safeguard clause that allows Bern to impose temporary restrictions on Europeans working in Switzerland in specific circumstances.

The clause was built into a deal with the European Union that allows European workers to take up jobs in Switzerland without being subject to the work permit quota system.

Unemployment in Switzerland hit a four-year high in October, reaching 4.0 percent, while inward migration is expected to reach 70,000 for 2009.

In 2008 it registered its biggest rise in permanent resident population in 40 years amid record immigration.

Swiss Economy Minister Doris Leuthard said in media reports in November that the government made a mistake by deciding in May not to invoke the safeguard clause which "could have kept thousands of people away from the Swiss job market."

AFP / Expatica