Labour market integration in Switzerland: Civil Society Barriers and Enablers

Labour market integration in Switzerland: Civil Society Barriers and Enablers

A successful labour market integration is typically the result of joint efforts from various actors and stakeholders from the public, private, and civil society sectors. CSOs are crucial actors in this process, though their role may vary depending (among other things) on their relative positioning in decision-making, or on the salience of the issue of migration in individual countries. This report is a synthesis of insights from interviews with civil society organizations and their beneficiaries in the canton of Geneva in Switzerland. It illuminates the expanding role civil society organizations play in migration and labour market inclusion, while highlighting the challenges surrounding their activities given important public policy changes.

Our analysis shows that the landscape of organizations active in this field has grown richer in recent years, and particularly after 2014. The canton has witnessed the emergence of new initiatives aimed more specifically at migrants from the asylum framework. They offer information, advice and individual support or training, among other things. Some initiatives are more innovative in focusing on areas such as computer coding, or adopting approaches that integrate the private sector into their activities. Interestingly, our examination of Swiss CSO implementing actions aimed at MRAA labour market integration in the Canton of Geneva also reveals the existence of a strong network of initiatives dating back well before 2014, aimed at supporting the professional integration of migrant women. The number of CSO projects implemented over recent years demonstrates a willingness to find the best ways to support this integration, while taking into account the diversity of the migrant populations. Overall, civil society organizations possess significant experience and expertise, particularly at the grassroots level, that can help public institutions experiment with innovative actions and formulate policy and strategy effectively. 

However, both the work and role of civil society organizations in the integration of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers into the Swiss labour market – and the sustainability of their actions – cannot be dissociated from the scope and development of public policy, and, crucially, from public funding. Our interviews with representatives show the existence of a complementary relationship but also that the activities of civil society organizations are dependent on public policies and institutions. This is dependence in the sense that part of the work of some organizations depends on a mandate from public institutions or funding from them in various forms.

In a context where public policies and the labour market are constantly changing, CSOs must continually rethink themselves and find strategies to cope with change. Our study shows that civil society actors are developing new forms of partnerships with other organizations, finding innovative ways to integrate the private sector into their activities, or implementing strategies that allow them to be partially self-financing.

Looking ahead in an uncertain and changing environment, civil society organizations can no longer work well in isolation. New, more effective ways of tackling societal challenges, such as migration or labour market changes, urge them inevitably to look to out-of-the-box sources for inspiration to adapt successfully.

You can read more on the role of civil society actors involved in labour market integration in Switzerland via our recently released SIRIUS report: 

WP4 Civil Society Enablers and Barriers