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Switzerland extends professional services deal with the UK

Switzerland and the UK have extended a deal that allows professionals special access to each other's markets until the end of 2025.

A person working on a laptop.
A person working on a laptop. Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Under the deal, Swiss and British service providers are given easier access to each others’ markets. 

“The Services Mobility Agreement (SMA) maintains ease of access for service providers following the end of the free movement of persons between Switzerland and the UK with the latter’s withdrawal from the EU,” said a statement from the economic department at the Swiss Federal Council.

The deal “regulates market access and temporary stay for service providers such as business consultants, IT experts and engineers”, said the Council, adding that it “meets a need” in the Swiss economy. 

The temporary agreement, which came into force on January 1st 2021, is to be extended until the end of 2025. 

Under the deal, Switzerland grants UK professionals seeking to provide a service in Switzerland access for a maximum period of 90 days per calendar year.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED – What is Switzerland’s deal with the EU?

According to the Swiss Federal Council, more than 4,000 British suppliers have used the 90-day market access option to provide services in the Swiss market since 2021.

The deal also gives Swiss exporters “preferential access” to the UK market in over 30 service sectors, according to the Swiss Federal Council. 

In many sectors, service providers no longer need to prove they hold a university degree or have experience in order to be admitted to the UK market.

Meanwhile, some Swiss higher vocational education and training qualifications are now recognised by the UK as equivalent to a university degree. The UK has also simplified some of the procedures for obtaining a business visa.

According to the British government, Switzerland is the UK’s “sixth largest export market for services, worth over £12 billion in exports last year”.

In a statement the UK government said the deal provided certainty for firms in both countries. 

“Moving skilled people between countries is vital to services exports, facilitating the delivery of projects and face to face conversations that help to win new clients and get deals done,” said the UK government in a statement.

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WORKING IN SWITZERLAND

Immigrants make positive contributions to Swiss social system

Since Switzerland introduced free movement, EU and EFTA nationals have not strained the country’s public insurance system, as some critics claim.

Immigrants make positive contributions to Swiss social system

Switzerland and the EU signed the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP), to lift restrictions on EU citizens wishing to live or work in Switzerland, in 1999. It came into force in 2002, and also applies to citizens of EFTA member states.

In their bid to limit immigration, right-wing parties have been arguing that foreigners too often abuse Switzerland’s social structure by relying on welfare instead of contributing to society.

However, these claims are false, according to the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), as reported by Neue Zürcher Zeitung this week.

In fact, by being gainfully employed and paying into the obligatory social security scheme, immigrants have had a positive effect on the old-age AHV / AVS pension, as well as on disability and health insurance, SECO said.

For instance, in the past they contributed 27.1 percent to the financing of the AHV / AVS, while drawing only 15.2 percent of it.

In terms of disability insurance, foreign nationals paid 26.5 percent into the scheme, receiving only 14.9 percent of benefits in return. 
With regard to the compulsory health insurance, SECO assumed “that most EU nationals in Switzerland are currently of working age and in fairly good health. They therefore represent an advantage” to the system.

There is, however, a downside as well.

In 2020, when many people in Switzerland were laid off due to the Covid pandemic, immigrants weighed more heavily on unemployment insurance. They paid 25.5 percent of contributions while receiving 32.8 percent of benefits.

This situation is not unusual though, SECO said, since more foreigners than Swiss work in sectors more prone to unemployment, such as construction and the hotel industry.

READ MORE: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

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