Switzerland has taken in a high portion of foreign-borns, yet without losing its identity or sense of order. Over 24 percent of the population is foreign-born, noting that almost half come from France, Germany, Italy, or Portugal. The country recently imposed restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria.
German as a second language in Switzerland is declining, as the migrant workers in the service sector do not command it with much fluency if at all. In Lugano, for instance, English now seems to be of more value.
In so many parts of the country unemployment is below two percent, with a national average of 3.3 percent. And the Swiss manage this with an “overvalued” exchange rate, at least by purchasing power parity standards. It is worth pondering how this is possible.
Probably the Swiss have never seen a better time. Their countryside is gorgeous and intact, and their major cities are creative and flourishing, yet many Swiss remain deeply unhappy about inward migration.
The Swiss are no “snowflakes;” they impose and enforce stiff penalties on those who don’t meet the insurance mandate, and they are on the verge of deporting an ethnically Spanish man who was born and raised in Switzerland, and who never has lived in Spain, for his repeated criminal offenses. Furthermore “Voters in Bern on Sunday rejected a proposed 105 million franc funding boost to help asylum seekers in the canton, primarily unaccompanied minors.”
It is striking how much the theory of comparative advantage has operated on Switzerland over the last thirty years, as the country has moved to a true economic integration with the EU.
I see Swiss cuisine as declining in relative value, as quality ingredients have spread to many other countries, including the United States (and Ireland!), but Swiss cooking has grown only marginally more imaginative. And food prices here can be 2x or more typical developed country levels.
Bern feels much freer and less provincial than it did thirty years ago, the last time I visited. Living here now seems imaginable. And in Bern you still can see a working public phone booth. Nor, from casual observation, do people here seem as cell-phone obsessed as their American demographic contemporaries.
As for Lugano, nothing seems to happen there.
Switzerland, an extreme country, and an extremely successful country, is always worth pondering. And visiting, even at 2x prices for the food.