The St-Gallen region which is located in the northeastern part of Switzerland posted, in 2007, its highest population increase for more than a decade. Mainly it was a result of immigration, which in turn was triggered by the economic upswing and the labour trades with the EU.
At the same time the number of cross-border workers from neighboring Austria increased to more than 8,300 people.
The SFS Holding Group active in fastening systems and automotive products employs about 400 Austrians at its site in Heerbrugg, making up 16% of its workforce in Switzerland.
“But the high number of Austrian workers has nothing to do with the labour accord,” said company spokesman Christian Fiechter.
The number did not increase after 2002 since the region on both sides of the River Rhine has always been a unified economic zone, according to Fiechter. He sees no integration problems for Austrians in the company because even there are some linguistic differences, the mentality is similar.”They are willing to do shift work,” said the spokesman.
The agriculture sector is not characterized by an important number of workers from EU member countries except for the strawberry harvest, says the St Gallen Farmers Association.
“Conditions are tough, hours are long, so Germans and Austrians are the exceptions for us,” said the association’s Markus Ritter.
He hires mainly young trainees from the Czech Republic and Poland. “They are keen workers and want to put the know-how they have gained here to use at home,” Ritter said.