Free Movement of Workers and Native Demand for Tertiary Education

Mirjam Bächli, Teodora Tsankova

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We investigate how the introduction of free movement of workers affects enrolment of natives in tertiary education. In a difference-in-differences framework, we exploit a policy change that led to a significant increase in the share of cross-border commuters in local employment in border regions of Switzerland. Our results show a rise in enrolment at Universities of Applied Sciences in affected relative to non-affected regions in the post-reform period but no change in enrolment at traditional universities. Furthermore, we find that enrolment increases in non-STEM fields that build skills less transferable across national borders. This allows for complementarities with foreign workers who
are more likely to hold occupations requiring STEM training. Individuals with a labor market oriented education such as vocationally trained respond to the increase in labor market competition because they have employment opportunities and access to tertiary education through Universities of Applied Sciences.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationWarwick
PublisherCAGE Working Paper Series
Number of pages53
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • cross-border commuting
  • demand for tertiary education
  • study field choice
  • labor market conditions


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