The Swiss advertisement above is from some time back and depicts three white sheep kicking a black sheep out of Switzerland. The words translate as “For greater security”. It is not only blacks and Muslims that many Swiss are dubious about, however. Lots of Germans have taken over top jobs in Switzerland in recent years and that causes some teeth-grinding. Fancy anybody not liking Germans! I quite like them myself but not many do. In Italy they tend to be regarded with horror and even French arrogance becomes rather brittle when the topic of the “Boche” arises

Switzerland made a “mistake” by not imposing temporary limits on European job seekers during the economic crisis, Swiss Economics Minister Doris Leuthard said in remarks published Sunday. The government will re-examine in the coming year whether it should activate the safeguard clause built into a deal with the European Union that allows Europeans to work in Switzerland, she added.

“The cantons and social partners were skeptical. They were undecided on the effect (of the safeguard clause) and did not want to spark a new conflict with the EU,” said Leuthard in an interview with NZZ am Sonntag. “In hindsight, that was a mistake. With the safeguard clause, we could have kept thousands of people away from the Swiss job market,” she said.

Under an accord between Switzerland and the EU, European workers can take up jobs in Switzerland without being subject to a work permit quota system. To protect the Swiss job market from over-saturation, the deal also includes a clause allowing Bern to impose temporary restrictions in specific circumstances. It can be activated if immigration grows by more than 10 percent in a year compared with the average rate in the previous three years.

Leuthard said the government will reopen the issue again in the coming year. “We will relook this in hindsight in 2010 and 2011, because the unemployment rate is expected to rise further. We must also look at whether there are other control mechanisms,” she said.

Even though unemployment in Switzerland hit a four-year-high in October, reaching 4.0 percent, net inward migration is expected to reach 70,000 for 2009. In 2008, the country registered its biggest rise in permanent resident population in 40 years amid record immigration.

Leuthard said the government had expected more foreigners to head home amid the toughening job market in Switzerland, but she noted that “we were wrong.” With unemployment rates in the eurozone higher than in Switzerland, Europeans have decided that it was better to remain here, she added.

Leuthard said that the government would look into the impact on the social security system. “We need to analyse the situation, to examine for instance, whether we need changes made to claims on unemployment benefits,” she added.