by Dominique M. Gross and Nicolas Schmitt.
This paper seeks to identify the main factors why skilled workers migrate to France and to Switzerland and whether their relative role changed when the countries moved from a limiting immigration policy to free mobility. Not surprisingly, the introduction of free mobility with only some source countries created a shift in the distribution of origins of skilled immigrants toward nationals from countries with an agreement. This is especially the case for countries with a common border with France and Switzerland and also for Portugal. Yet the shift varies across skill degrees and appears related to how France and Switzerland were able to compete for such immigrants. In particular, a rising proportion of highly skilled foreign immigrants to Switzerland come from high income countries while those going to France come from developing countries with no free mobility agreement. As expected free mobility enhances the role of push and pull factors. However, within the skilled worker categories, groups with different skill intensities reacted differently. Generally, free mobility changed permanently the dynamics of the inflow of highly skilled workers (growth effect) while it induces only a temporary effect for semi-skilled workers (level effect). Yet not all factors changed and highly-skilled workers became particularly sensitive to relative income with free mobility. This may be the reason why France seems to have more difficulties attracting highly skilled workers than Switzerland. Moreover, the highly skilled are not sensitive to the presence of a cultural network whether they can move freely or not unlike their less skilled counterparts whose reliance on the presence of a culturally alike community is further enhanced with free mobility.