[ZURICH] Switzerland will let an extra 1,000 expert employees from countries outside Europe enter the country to work next year, the government decided on Wednesday, boosting the annual quota to help hard-pressed local companies recruit specialists.
The move means 7,500 people from so-called third countries outside the European Union plus EFTA countries Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein can take up Swiss jobs.
The government had cut the annual quota to 6,500 after voters in 2014 backed a referendum for immigration curbs to reduce an influx of foreigners that already make up a quarter of Switzerland's population.
Immigration has been a hot political topic in Switzerland, which is trying to rein in new arrivals even from the EU despite bilateral accords guaranteeing free movement for EU citizens as the price for enhanced Swiss access to the single market.
Parliament is debating an approach that would give local people hiring preference for open jobs, hoping to curtail immigration without prompting the EU to end the trade accords that are crucial for Swiss exports.