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Population ageing and a lack of semi-skilled workers in Switzerland: Opportunities for refugees?

Raymond Saner (Department of Research, Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development, Geneve, Switzerland)
Lichia Yiu (Department of Development, Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development, Geneve, Switzerland)
Laurel Rush (Department of Research, Centre for Socio-Eco-Nomic Development, Geneve, Switzerland)

Career Development International

ISSN: 1362-0436

Article publication date: 27 August 2019

Issue publication date: 13 January 2020




The question being discussed in this paper is how can refugees be integrated into a host country’s labour market with Switzerland serving as a case example experiencing specific local challenges, such as an aging society and gaps in the labour market, particularly relating to semi-skilled jobs in the public sector. The paper aims to discuss this issue.


This paper examines Switzerland’s intake of refugees and analyses existing refugee and labour market policies and how the integration process is being managed by the authorities and responded to by Swiss citizens.


The analysis shows that refugees can potentially find jobs in all three segments of the Swiss labour market (highly skilled, semi-skilled and low-skilled labour) and provide mutually beneficial solutions for all parties concerned that include: for refugees seeking employment and asylum; for the aging population requiring care delivered by low- and semi-skilled workforce; and for public and private sector enterprises in need of qualified and motivated labour force.


This paper examines the interplay between refugees seeking work and demonstrates the importance of relating job entry by refuges with actual labour market constraints and opportunities of the host country, Switzerland.



On behalf of the team, the lead author expresses his thanks to Dr Anja Klug, Head of Office, UNHCR Office for Switzerland and Liechtenstein, for clarifying key aspects of the legal framework of refugee status and the legal and political context of Switzerland, Mrs Ellen Hansen, Senior Policy Adviser to the Assistant High Commissioner for Protection of Refugees, Geneva, and Dr Kristina von Petersdorff, UNHCR – Resettlement Officer – Division of International Protection – Resettlement and Complementary Pathways Service, Geneva, for their support and helpful comments during different steps of writing this article.


Saner, R., Yiu, L. and Rush, L. (2020), "Population ageing and a lack of semi-skilled workers in Switzerland: Opportunities for refugees?", Career Development International, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 24-31.



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