Switzerland’s small population of around 300,000 Italian speakers lives mainly in the canton of Ticino on the Italian border. Directly across the border are around 60 million Italians speaking the same language who under current rules are free to work in Switzerland. Add to this Swiss pay that is more than double the Italian average and it is no wonder that one third of Ticino’s jobs are held by Italian residents who cross the border every day. Who can blame the residents of Ticino for their concern? At the same time, who can blame Italian residents for wanting to cross the border to earn substantially higher pay?
The latest political hot potato in this ongoing saga is an initiative launched by the Ticino commune of Claro. The commune has come up with a sticker that allows businesses to publically present the percentage of Swiss residents they employ. The sticker’s slogan is: “We employ residents” (noi impieghiamo personale residente). According to the commune’s website the sticker is designed to help consumers discriminate in support of those who employ more locals. It costs CHF 10 (Euro 10) and can be used on vehicles and letterheads etc.
Many have come out and said it is racist. The Commune’s position is that it is not because Italians in possession of Swiss residence permits are included in their classification of local workers.
Regardless of the technical details of who is in and who is out, the sticker is unlikely to be a draw for many Italian consumers, a 60 million strong group that seems to have been overlooked by the architects of this initiative.
More on this: Comune di Claro communiqué (in Italian)