Every year around 11,000 people apply for asylum in Switzerland. The first challenge many face is learning the local language. The next is finding a job or getting an education.
Poor language proficiency and cantonal labour market restrictions are the main reasons why refugees don’t work, according to various studies.
The employment rate among refugees varies significantly across cantons. In April 2018, the employment rate among asylum seekers who are employable ranged from 0% in the cantons of Glarus, Jura, Nidwalden, and Uri to 17.5% in Graubünden.
Some cantons restrict refugees to work in specified industries, while others require jobs to be offered to locals first.
Refugees and asylum seekers without work survive on welfare, which cost CHF 988 million in 2017, a sum that has nearly tripled since 2008 when it was CHF 329 million. This high welfare cost is one of the motivations to get refugees and asylum seekers working.
Recently, Switzerland’s federal government launched a new set of initiatives aimed at getting 70% into work that will go into effect on 1 May 2019, according to Le Matin.
Bern will triple to CHF 18,000 the amount it pays to the cantons to integrate each person into the job market, a plan that will cost CHF 132 million.
The plan aims to get refugees speaking the local language within three years, get at least half of adults working within seven years and have two thirds of those aged 15-25 studying within five years of arriving.