In response to rising welfare costs, Switzerland’s Federal Council has put forward a proposal to cut the amounts paid to non-EU immigrants in Switzerland, reported RTS.
Between 2010 and 2019, the cost of welfare in Switzerland rose by CHF 0.9 billion to CHF 2.8 billion (+47%), straining the finances of some cantons and municipalities. The Federal Council has put forward a proposal to contain this rising cost and to encourage better integration into the workforce.
The proposal is aimed at immigrants from beyond EU and EFTA states, known as third country nationals. 8.8% of this group are on welfare, compared to 2.3% of Swiss and 2.8% of citizens from the EU and EFTA.
The Federal Council proposal would broadly reduce welfare payments to third country nationals to a level 20% below that of Swiss, EU and EFTA citizens, although cantons would have the final say on the amounts. The reduction would apply during the first three years of residency in Switzerland. The lower payments would also apply to family members without Swiss, EU or EFTA citizenship and would therefore affect those arriving under family reunification arrangements but not those officially recognised as refugees.
In addition, a new integration criterion would be added to the application process for residence permit renewal, which would require evidence that an applicant was supporting the integration of family members, along with the current requirement to show evidence of employment or training.
According to Jean-Luc Addor, a national council member from the Swiss Peoples Party (UDC/SVP), the cost of welfare for the cantons and communes is constantly rising. These measures aim to remove an incentive for people to immigrate to Switzerland in order to benefit from welfare at the expense of this country’s taxpayers, he said.
However, not everyone shares this perspective. Lisa Mazzone, a national council member from the Green Party, said that these measures concern only a tiny minority of people from these countries who find themselves receiving welfare because they need it. She said that we are going to push these people into greater poverty, which is not in their interest or the interest of Switzerland.
The Federal Council began looking at the subject in 2017. The current proposal will be discussed by government until 3 May 2022.