22 Apr 2014

WTI event examines rights of migrants in the labour market

The World Trade Institute (WTI) is hosting a special day-long event on 28 April focusing on the rights of migrants with regard to labour, and looking at the specific case of Switzerland.

The migration day, organised by doctoral research fellow Rosa Losada, begins with a WTI-internal workshop that will examine questions including: What is the relationship between migrants' rights and their qualifications?; How can a country get the right people for the labour market?; What is the impact on trade, economy, investment and research? It will also consider the issue of the human rights of migrants from the point of view of the sending country.

At lunchtime a public panel discussion will be held at the University of Bern on “Rights of migrants in restrictive systems of access to the labour market” with WTI Managing Director Prof. Thomas Cottier, Prof. Alberto Achermann from the Law Faculty of the University of Bern and Prof. François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants and professor in Public International Law at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.

Swiss National Councillor Corrado Pardini and EU Ambassador Richard Jones will attend this event as honoured guests in the audience.

Media are invited to attend the panel discussion and a subsequent lunch at the WTI. Following lunch there will be an opportunity for media interviews with speakers.

The public panel discussion will bring together leaders and practitioners and will address questions raised by the Swiss nationwide vote of 9 February 2014 aimed at curbing mass immigration.

The initiative, approved by a bare 50 percent of the electorate, imposes limits on the number of foreigners allowed into Switzerland, and may mark the end of the country’s free movement accord with the European Union.

Some politicians are now mulling additional political initiatives to restrict foreigners’ access to the Swiss labour market. Others are considering the introduction of a point system to control immigration, similar to that operating in Canada.

On the other hand, Switzerland faces problems with an ageing population and the needs of its labour market, which is highly dependent on workers from abroad. Restricting the hiring of EU citizens could act as a brake on the Swiss economy, which enjoys virtually full employment.

The result of this vote has far-reaching consequences in many different policy areas. The panel discussion aims to explore how to ensure the rights of migrants and migrant workers in a country where immigration is subject to quotas and restricted.

An executive summary of the discussions will be published on the WTI website.