Immigrant women in Switzerland find it harder to find a job, research shows

by Ray Clancy on August 24, 2012

Overseas women with young children and few qualifications struggle to integrate

Most foreigners living in Switzerland are generally successful when it comes to finding a job but there are some groups being left behind, according to a new report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Those who are not integrating well include women with young children with few qualifications and there is not enough awareness of discrimination among employers and the general public, the report says.

Some 27% of the working age population in Switzerland are foreign born, a large number compared with other OECD countries. Yet the employment rate of immigrants is only 5% below that of the native born. The report says this is mainly due to good labour market conditions and a specific mix of origin countries as most migrants come from other high income OECD countries.

However, many migrants from non-OECD countries are over qualified for their job. An expansion of mentorship and bridging programmes for those who do not have a Swiss degree could improve access to higher skilled jobs, it is suggested as up to now few immigrants have had their foreign qualification formally recognised in Switzerland.

‘A more transparent recognition process and improved information about the benefits of obtaining such recognition would potentially increase the number of migrants obtaining certification and finding a more suitable job afterwards,’ the report says.

‘Immigrant women from lower income countries with young children barely benefit from targeted integration measures and do not have sufficient access to the full range of active labour market policy tools,’ it explains.

‘There are signs that the labour market participation of immigrant women with young children has declined in recent years. Likewise, recent humanitarian migrants have difficulties finding work, more so than previous groups of humanitarian migrants,’ it adds.

In contrast to other OECD countries, Switzerland did not yet have a standardised integration programme for newly arrived humanitarian migrants, although a number of recent initiatives go in the right direction. Given the positive experience of other countries with programmes targeted at labour market integration, these should be introduced more broadly.

The report says that access to Swiss nationality is another means that could provide an impetus for the integration of immigrants. Evidence from other OECD countries suggests that naturalisation often leads to better integration. But access to nationality is much more difficult than in other OECD countries as immigrants generally need to have lived in Switzerland for a minimum of 12 years before they can apply, the longest period required by any OECD country.

In addition, there are extra requirements at the federal, cantonal and municipal levels. The planned reform of citizenship legislation would tackle some of the most important shortcomings of Swiss nationality law and enhance immigrants’ mobility within Switzerland.

Another area in which Switzerland lags behind is anti-discrimination policy. Research suggests that the offspring of immigrants with an otherwise equivalent CV need to submit up to five times the number of applications filed by natives in order to get invited to a job interview. This holds in particular for offspring of immigrants from the former Yugoslavia.

‘The institutional framework to tackle discrimination urgently needs strengthening. In addition, awareness of the issue of discrimination should be raised amongst employers and the general public,’ says the report.

‘The federalist character is clearly visible in the Swiss integration policy with integration measures which vary widely on a cantonal and local level. Although considerable improvements have been made over the past decade, stronger policy co-ordination within the country could boost the efficiency of integration efforts,’ it adds.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

NF2101 August 30, 2012 at 1:18 pm

So, a bit of a rant… Being of dual nationality (British-Swiss), having lived and worked in Switzerland and still being in regular contact with family and friends there, this article, or even the research findings it describes, is a fair representation of Swiss working life.

Discrimination is high in swiss culture, not only towards foreigners but also from Canton to Canton. But where former Yugoslavians and Kosovans (and also Italians) are concerned, the swiss in general display a lot of resentment and discrimination towards them. There are many different reasons for this but the general concensus is that a lot of people feel they had to give way to former nationals of Yugoslavia and Kosovo, helping them with asylum, but feel that their government's "good deed" went unrecognised and that they were repayed with increased crime rates and other socially 'embarrassing' circumstances like unemployment. The swiss are very much a nation of pride, efficiency, patriotism and strive for perfection in most if not everything they do. The education system is one of the best in the world (another thing they are – and should be – extremely proud of), but the emphasis on education and qualifications has started to become a little obsessive. There is nothing wrong with striving for better and furthering one's skillset and knowledge, but it is a bit overly competitive and eliteist the way the Swiss can go about such things. The swiss mentality is very competitive, almost to the point where it's survival of the fittest (i.e. the most qualified) and they brag about how amazing they/their children are at school/work/hobbies and how well they have done in life. Money and success is mostly dependent on the calibre of education you have had, so in order to be successful and go to university you must attend a 'grammar school'. If you don't, however, there are other much more long-winded ways of getting into uni but swiss education leaves it open for everyone to be able to get a very decent level of education especially through apprenticeships and other training schemes . Earning potential and salaries are possibly the highest in Europe, but cost of living is also extremely high.

There has been in recent years a shift in the female working world too, as many women have become extremely successful and powerful career-minded individuals. The overall swiss 'regimented' mindset doesn't really allow for sympathy towards 'underqualified' mothers with young children, because after all, there are vast numbers of women in very highly paid and highly respected roles in the workplace who also have young children and have managed to balance family and work. I think the reason that the Swiss are perhaps not very forgiving or have these high expectations from themselves and others who cparticipate in their society, is because a great education leading to employment is accessible to everyone at a fraction of the costs people experience in America and the UK for example. Basically, there is no room in the perfect idealism of their society for unemployed people they may regard as 'slackers' or underqualified – harsh as it may be! These are not necessarily my views, but more views that have come across from speaking to family firends and colleagues.


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