Swiss association proposes new expat tax to curtail immigration
An economic association and advocacy group has called for Swiss companies to pay a special form of tax if they choose to offer jobs in Switzerland to expats and internationals living abroad. Speaking to the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), Autonomiesuisse co-president and economist Hans-Jörg Bertschi demanded the government get around the negotiating table with the European Union (EU) in order to try and flesh out a new agreement on migration.
Over 200.000 people immigrated to Switzerland in 2022
In the interview with the NZZ, Bertschi said that Switzerland’s population had grown by the size of Basel in 2022 alone, with around 200.000 new arrivals claiming residence permits as workers or asylum seekers. “Nevertheless, the shortage of skilled workers is greater than it has been in the last 20 years. This shows that there are limits to population growth… Switzerland must examine whether it can control immigration differently,” he noted.
The co-president made the point that as the new arrivals put extra strain on Swiss social services, and the housing crisis in major Swiss cities deepens, companies directly benefit from employing people from abroad without any charge. “Therefore we think that the economy should make a contribution so that more railway lines, roads and school buildings can be built. Companies that recruit employees from abroad should pay a levy.”
New Swiss immigrant tax would be hard to sell to EU, economist admits
When asked how Switzerland, which has signed up to the free movement of people principle with the EU, would be able to enact such a policy without being accused of discrimination, Bertschi acknowledged that their demands were politically explosive and that a “return to quotas would be wrong and not compatible.” However, he said that Switzerland could try and pitch the tax as a form of “fee” for entry to the alpine nation.
In responding to whether the European Union would ever sign up to such a deal, Bertschi told reporters that Switzerland is too profitable a partner to be ignored. “We must not give up our locational advantages lightly… we need a dispute settlement for future cases that takes into account not only the interests of the EU but also those of Switzerland,” he concluded.
Opponents call for more immigration to Switzerland, not less
While many in Switzerland still believe that immigration restrictions are needed to ease the strain on social and political services, a number of economists have argued that the current shortage in workers can only be solved by new expats and internationals, as many Swiss citizens are moving to part-time work and universities in Switzerland do not produce enough graduates to fill all highly-skilled roles.
While Bertschi made the point that 200.000 new arrivals didn’t make a dent into the 250.000 vacancies currently available in the alpine nation, others may argue that the continually high vacancy rate is a sign that more immigration is needed, not less. What’s more, many have made the point that as the country continues to age, younger employees from abroad will be needed to prop up the AHV and pension system.
Whatever the outcome, all residents of Switzerland, regardless of their opinions, will have to wait until negotiations with the European Union are concluded in the coming months to see if any new restrictions are confirmed.
Image: Shutterstock.com / trabantos
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