Augmentation spectaculaire de la main d'oeuvre étrangère hautement qualifiée en Suisse

The number of highly-qualified immigrant workers in Switzerland has more than doubled in 25 years

In an article for the journal Social Change in Switzerland, Philippe Wanner and Ilka Steiner show how migrant flows into Switzerland have changed over the last 25 years. In particular, the increase in immigration involving workers with high-level qualifications has been spectacular. The two researchers based their analysis on several original databases and demonstrate the predominant role played by the developing labour market in these changes.

Since the beginning of the 21st century Switzerland has experienced a significant increase in net migration. At the same time, the profile of migrant flows has changed dramatically, with the number of highly-qualified migrants more than doubling between 1991 and 2014. Using new data, Philippe Wanner and Ilka Steiner show that the number of new migrants with a tertiary education has increased from 30,000 in 1991 to 40,000 in 2000 and reaches more than 60,000 after 2007. Today migrants with high-level qualifications represent half of the total annual influx.

Immigration levels involving highly-qualified people vary across different nationalities. On the basis of a new survey, the authors show that the proportion of highly-qualified migrants exceeds 80% for French and UK nationals. It reaches two thirds for German and Austrian migrants, but is only 24% for new migrants from Portugal. In recent years, Spanish and Italian migrant flows in particular have undergone significant changes in their profile. Today over 50% are highly-qualified people, whereas historically these flows consisted of people with fairly basic qualifications.

The increase in highly-qualified migration can be explained by the demands of the Swiss labour market. New data show that over half of highly-qualified European immigrants had an employment contract in Switzerland before they arrived in the country. Nonetheless, the authors point out that international migration has only played a secondary role in response to the labour market's needs. Between 2010 and 2013 it was responsible for meeting less than 30% of the demand for workers with a tertiary education. New generations of young native Swiss, better qualified than their elders, have played the biggest role in this respect.

>> Wanner, Philippe et Steiner, Ilka (2018). Une augmentation spectaculaire de la migration hautement qualifiée en Suisse. Social Change in Switzerland No 16. Retrieved from

Contact : Ilka Steiner, 078 610 36 31,