Hiring Talent: Why Switzerland is Falling Behind

Matthew Feargrieve
4 min readMar 17, 2020
Alpine view of valleys and mountains in Switzerland
Mountains - of red tape, that is

MATTHEW FEARGRIEVE, former foreign worker and “C”-permit holder, considers how Switzerland’s labour market needs to change in order to hire and retain a skilled non-Swiss workforce.

It sometimes takes a Black Swan event, like a global pandemic, to hold up a mirror to a country so that it may see its own reflection; how it looks to the outside world, how it does things, how it needs to change.

So it was when, on 17 March 2020, Swiss newspaper Handelszeitung reported industry and export chief Stefan Brupbacher’s calls on the Swiss government to distribute facemasks to the people of Switzerland. Why? So they can all get back to work, of course!

Brupbacher’s stance on the health of the Swiss population says so much about the mindset of the Swiss industrial and economic establishments: inflexible; out of touch; backward-looking; and process-bound.

It is the byzantine nature of Switzerland’s immigration laws and labour regulations that is the subject of a joint report just published (March 2020) by audit firm Deloitte Switzerland and the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. Here we summarize the report’s key findings.

Switzerland has an ageing population and a shortage of skilled workers. The only solution to this problem is, naturally, to hire young talent from outside its borders. But this is precisely what the country’s stolid bureaucracy is preventing, as it imposes complex immigration requirements both on foreign workers (particularly those from outside the EU and the G7) and on Swiss employers who are bound to comply with strict quotas for non-Swiss hiring.

Switzerland has a negative ratio of native to foreign productivity. Non-EU skilled immigration into Switzerland represents 3% of the…

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Matthew Feargrieve

Matthew Feargrieve is an investment management consultant with more than twenty years experience of advising fund managers.