With more than 20%, Switzerland is one of the countries with the
largest foreign population. Since 1970, the government has tried to
manage the flows of migrants in the hope of reconciling a chronic excess
demand for labor with mounting pressures from nationalistic groups to
control the level of foreign population. A policy of quotas on working
permits has been effective in controlling entry of new workers.
Nevertheless, the overall dynamics of the system has led to an
ever-increasing share of newcomers not covered by quotas. Because of
institutional and economic changes, the outflow did not react to
economic incentives as the government expected. Hence, at the beginning
of the 21st century, the link between the instruments of immigration
policy and its goal has become very weak and the level of foreign
population is at an all time high. However, a new era has begun with an
agreement on free mobility with EU/EFTA countries.