The Serbian diaspora, which today is one of the largest foreign populations in Switzerland, has its roots in Switzerland’s labour migration policies of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and in the economic and political situation of the former Yugoslavia during this same period. After the end of World War II, when the demand for industrial production to rebuild Europe was high, Switzerland was confronted with a workforce shortage. To meet this demand, the Swiss government signed short-term labour migration accords with Spain and Italy. Over time, many of these seasonal “guest workers” qualified for annual and permanent residency, prompting a significant rise in the percentage of foreigners in the Swiss population. In 1970, Switzerland adopted a new “stabilization” immigration policy which aimed to strike a balance between the perceived threat of the growing foreign population and the continued need for immigrant labour to fuel the Swiss economy. A limited number of temporary permits were made available to workers from several neighbouring countries, including the former Yugoslavia. It was under this migration scheme that large numbers of Serbian migrants came to Switzerland to work over the following two decades.

Related Subject(s): Migration
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