The Swiss government has agreed to triple its financial contribution to help boost the integration of refugees into the labour market.
Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said the national authorities would pay up to CHF18,000 ($18,200) per person to the 26 cantons responsible for assimilating refugees and asylum seekers with temporary residence status.
The measures will result in CHF162 million per year in additional government spending, including compensation payments to help unaccompanied minors.
It is estimated that about 11,000 people will benefit from the programmes which will be phased in from spring 2019.
Sommaruga said the integration agenda – an accord between the national and cantonal governments - would pay off in the medium term as the local, cantonal and national authorities needed less money for welfare payments.
Education key to success
“It is an investment which is tied to clear and ambitious aims,” Sommaruga told a news conference on Monday.
The minister was referring to a catalogue of language and professional skills programmes for most refugees and immigrants with temporary residence status which should allow them to cope with everyday life in Switzerland and make a living for themselves and their families.
Experts say about 70% of all refugees between 18 and 65 have the potential to work, allowing them to cover their own living expenses. About 60% of them are below the age of 26, according to Sommaruga.
“Education is the key to succeed in the Swiss job market,” said Benedikt Würth, president of Conference of Cantonal Governmentsexternal link.
However, members of the rightwing Swiss People’s Party have criticised the integration agenda, claiming it is a mechanism which benefits providers of integration services. The party has also questioned integration budgets in some cantons.
A reform approved by voters in 2016 and due to come into force next year, individual asylum requests should be speeded up, cutting considerably the time applicants have to wait for a decision whether they can stay in Switzerland.