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Foreign workers

Four language sign on a building site (in new window)

Helmets obligatory: sign in four languages on a building site in Central Switzerland. The fourth language is Spanish. The census in 2000 showed that there were 77,500 Spanish speakers living in Switzerland.©

One in four of the wage earners in Switzerland is foreign. The Swiss economy could not function without foreign workers. Mainly manual workers and helpers are needed, for example in the building trade and the hotel business. Foreign specialists are also needed: technicians, engineers, scientists and computer scientists.

In 2002 a new law came into force allowing the free movement of workers between Switzerland and the old members of the European Union and European Free Trade Area. An initial report on the consequences of this law, issued in 2005, showed that - contrary to some initial fears - it had had little impact on either employment figures or on wages.

"There are always xenophobes. At one time they used to mock immigrants for their lack of qualifications; now they complain that they are almost over-qualified."


Roger de Weck (1953 -) Swiss political commentator and journalist