Jobless actors, PR experts get leg up in Swiss hiring scheme

ZURICH (Reuters) - Out-of work actors, public relations experts and watchmakers looking for new jobs in their fields are set to get favored treatment under a new Swiss system of hiring preferences that takes effect in July.

FILE PHOTO: A nightview shows Switzerland's highest skyscaper the Prime Tower (126 metres /413 ft) in Zurich Switzerland July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

Non-EU member Switzerland adopted the scheme to help mobilize labor at home than curb immigration from the European Union, as voters had demanded in a binding 2014 referendum.

Brussels insists that EU citizens must be able to live and work in Switzerland -- whose population is a quarter foreign -- as the price for enhanced Swiss access to the EU single market, the biggest for Swiss exports.

The new Swiss system approved by parliament in 2016 headed off a direct clash over immigration and is now being rolled out. It gives people registered as jobless in Switzerland first crack at open jobs in sectors with above-average unemployment.

The government approved on Wednesday the list of categories that fall under the scheme because they have jobless rates of 8 percent or more, a threshold set to fall to 5 percent from 2020.

The overall Swiss jobless rate stood at 2.7 percent in April.

The economy ministry will determine each year which job categories qualify for hiring preferences based on average nation-wide unemployment rates they show over 12 months.

Alongside actors, public relations experts and watchmakers, the current list includes some categories of farm labor, telephonists, reception staff and housekeepers.

Even though the new hiring system averted a diplomatic crisis, Swiss-EU ties remain fragile as the sides try to negotiate a treaty that would put relations on a firmer footing. A patchwork of 120 sectoral accords now governs ties.

Most Swiss support the government’s plan to forge a new treaty that would have arbitration panels to help settle disputes, a poll published last month showed.

While arbitration could take the edge off Swiss reservations about giving the European Court of Justice a role in settling disputes, differences over state aid and Swiss measures to shelter domestic labor remain potential stumbling blocks.

The two sides aim to wrap up negotiations this year, but any deal faces Swiss voter approval under the neutral country’s system of direct democracy. Parallel EU negotiations with Britain over terms of its EU exit also complicate matters.

Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Edmund Blair