Switzerland’s federal government has decided to increase the amount it gives cantons for each refugee, which includes accepted refugees and asylum seekers.
Currently, it provides a one-off payment of CHF 6,000. Soon this will increase to CHF 18,000, according to the Federal Department of Justice and Police (FDJP). At the same time, federal assistance to cantons with welfare for refugees will be cut by CHF 6,000 per refugee.
It is hoped the extra money will help more refugees move from welfare to the workforce. The money comes with targets, which show the long path to integration. The plan aims to have 100% of refugees and provisional refugees speaking the local language within 3 years, have 66% of those aged 16-25 in professional training after 5 years, and at least 50% working within 7 years. Currently, 40% end up working within 7 years across Switzerland, with even fewer in French-speaking Switzerland, according to RTS.
The FDJP thinks around 70% of work-age refugees, admitted and provisional, have the potential to integrate into the workforce.
The extra money comes with strings attached. Cantons that fail to get 50% into work within 7 years will have to pay it back.
Not everyone is happy about the move. Adrian Amstutz from the Swiss People’s Party (UDC/SVP) thinks the extra money, estimated at CHF 132 million a year, won’t deliver in practice.
Amstutz is also against the integration of provisional refugees (asylum seekers) because many could see their applications rejected and need to leave. In addition, he questions government figures on refugee workforce participation: how can so many refugees be working when the percentage of refugees on welfare was 86% in 2016?, he asks.
Part of the answer is that, based on FDJP estimates, it takes years to get refugees off welfare and into the workforce.