How employers and landlords in Switzerland ‘discriminate against Swiss citizens of immigrant origin’

People who are not of Swiss origin, including those of EU backgrounds, have less chances of getting a job or an apartment, a new study has shown.

How employers and landlords in Switzerland 'discriminate against Swiss citizens of immigrant origin'

Immigrants who become Swiss citizens, but who have distinctly foreign names or are visibly of other ethnic backgrounds, don’t have the same opportunities to get hired as their native Swiss counterparts, the studies reveal.

Studies conducted by National Center of Competence in Research, which analyses migration and mobility in Switzerland, revealed that citizens with foreign backgrounds must submit 30 percent more applications than native Swiss candidates in order to be invited to a job interview — even if their qualifications are the same.

The survey, which studied both language regions in Switzerland said: “Results show that children of immigrants holding Swiss qualifications and dual nationality need to send 30% more applications to receive a call-back for an interview when applying for apprenticeship level occupations. Chances of dual citizens to be invited to a job interview are largely the same across linguistic regions.

Explaining the reason for the study, the authors spell out the context of immigrants and the labour market in Switzerland.

“Two-thirds of the Swiss immigrant population holds passports of EU or EFTA countries, with Italy, Germany, Portugal and France being the most important countries of origin, followed by countries such as Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia that were part of the Former Yugoslavia, and Turkey.

“While employment rates and wages of immigrants are high in international comparison, immigrants are still disadvantaged: their unemployment rates are higher and salaries are lower than those of native Swiss.”

“Furthermore, there is evidence that the second generation in particular faces discrimination in the Swiss labour market, e.g. when looking for apprenticeships (Imdorf 2008). Such constraints on foreign born residents’ social mobility can have long term repercussions for a meritocratic society.”

Interestingly Swiss nationals whose parents are from EU backgrounds also face discrimination the study found.

“Hiring discrimination affects also applicants whose parents came from EU neighbouring countries. German-origin candidates experience the highest discrimination rate in one specific occupation,” the study reads.

But as confirmed by researchers Switzerland is no exception and similar discrimination against job applicants from immigrant backgrounds exists in other countries across Europe.

But where Switzerland lags behind other countries is in acknowledging there is a problem.

“Switzerland is no exception to this trend of a rising “second generation” and of more stringent evidence of its unequal treatment in the labour market,” writes the study.

“Similarly, while reflecting the ethnic composition of the immigrant-origin resident population, the ethnic ranking observed in Switzerland echoes findings in other European countries. However, contrary to other European countries, there is no acute awareness of this issue in Switzerland.

“The relatively low unemployment rate in international comparison may make hiring discrimination less visible, to the extent that it does not necessarily lead to unemployment, as is the case elsewhere.”

Other research shows that a similar phenomenon affects the search for apartments.

Sociologists from the Universities of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Lausanne conducted an experimental study on ethnic discrimination in the Swiss housing market by sending 11,000 fictitious applications in response to real estate advertisements.

They found that candidates with Kosovar or Turkish names were not given as many opportunities to view apartments as non-foreign applicants.

In Switzerland, as in European Union nations, racial discrimination is illegal. In practice, however,  such cases do occur.

In a government survey, more than 33 percent of Swiss reported being uncomfortable around people perceived to be “different” because of their nationality, religion, or skin colour.


Photo: karkozphoto/Depositphotos





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Switzerland refuses to make it easier to become Swiss

Switzerland's Federal Council rejected a motion by some MPs to make the process of obtaining Swiss citizenship easier for certain foreigners.

Switzerland refuses to make it easier to become Swiss

In view of the low naturalisation rate in Switzerland, MP Katja Christ from the Green Liberal party has filed a motion asking to revise the minimum length of stay required to obtain Swiss citizenship from 10 to seven years.

Christ also pointed out that the naturalisation process itself, especially on the municipal level, should be revamped.

That is because such a procedure sometimes involves discriminatory decisions by the communal assembly, which are based on the candidate’s origin rather than his or her eligibility for citizenship, she said.

The government responded that any denial of naturalisation believed by the candidate to be unjustified can be appealed.

Another MP, Corina Gredig, also asked to lower the minimum length of stay required by the cantons for naturalisation from the current five to three years, arguing that many people move from one canton before the five-year term.

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons have the strictest citizenship requirements?

However, on Thursday the Federal Council rejected the motions, saying that a revised legislation on foreigners went into effect in 2019, so fairly recently, and the issues brought up in the two recent motions were already addressed at that time.

During the debates leading up to the new legislation, the parliament refused to reduce the minimum length of stay in Switzerland to eight years and in cantons  three years, authorities said.

The law lays out criteria not only for naturalisation, but also for integration in general, as well as for conditions to receive work permits in Switzerland, which include the need to provide certificates from government-accredited institutions to prove language proficiency.

READ MORE: Work permits: Switzerland introduces new rules for language proficiency certificates

The refusal to lighten up naturalisation requirements comes amid ongoing discussions in Switzerland about how to make this process easier for third-generation foreigners who are eligible to become Swiss.

Unlike many other countries, being born in Switzerland doesn’t automatically mean the person is Swiss.

If their parents were born abroad and still hold foreign passports, a person will not obtain Swiss citizenship at birth. 

Even though they were born in Switzerland and have lived their entire lives in Switzerland, they have the same nationality as their parents and will continue to be considered as foreigners – until and unless they become naturalised.

However, this process is more complex than it seems, as it is unreasonably bureaucratic, requiring proof that is often difficult to obtain.

EXPLAINED: Why so few third-generation Swiss are actually ‘Swiss’?

As a result of these strict conditions, very few third-generation foreigners become Swiss: out of about 25,000 people in this category, only 1,847 received their Swiss passports at the end of 2020 — the last year for which official statistics are available.

“There should be political will to implement change, which is not the case”, Rosita Fibbi, migration sociologist at the Swiss Forum for the Study of Migration and Population at the University of Neuchâtel, told The Local in an interview on May 4th.

“No significant steps to make the process truly easier have been introduced to date”; she added.

The latest Federal Council decision  not to act on the recent motions means no relief is in sight on the naturalisation front.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why so many foreigners in Switzerland skip naturalisation?