June 16, 2017 / 2:05 PM / 3 months ago

Swiss local preference law could help 187,000 job seekers

ZURICH (Reuters) - Around 187,000 Swiss job seekers could benefit from local hiring preference rules, the government said on Friday, under proposals aimed at curbing immigration from the European Union without adopting outright quotas.

Parliament last year skirted a clash with the EU by adopting the local preference system, stopping short of the immigration limits voters had demanded in a 2014 referendum but which would violate bilateral accords ensuring free movement of people.

A draft government decree implementing the new law calls for applying the system in sectors of the economy where unemployment rates hit 5 percent or more.

Employers would then have to notify employment offices of job vacancies, except for short-term jobs. The government said three of every 10 new job placements would be subject to reporting requirements.

Registered job seekers in Switzerland would get a five-day head start in applying for open positions, in theory reducing the need to recruit workers from abroad.

The overall Swiss jobless rate stood at 3.1 percent in May, but was higher in sectors like catering and retail.

The government said it could put the new rules into effect early next year after a period of public comment. The trigger level could change every year depending on market conditions.

Brussels has taken a generally relaxed view of the new Swiss system, which comes amid unsettled ties between neutral Switzerland and the EU.

The Bern government put off a decision on Friday on whether to continue pursuing a new treaty with the EU that would replace the existing patchwork of bilateral economic accords.

Foreign Minister Didier Burkhalter, who was spearheading the drive to put ties on a more established footing, announced this week he would resign, leaving Europe policy adrift.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Toby Chopra

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