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.