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Where in Switzerland do foreigners choose to live?

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Where in Switzerland do foreigners choose to live?
Basel's population is 35 percent foreign. Photo: Per Kasch/Swiss Tourism
12:03 CEST+02:00
According to the latest figures from the Swiss federal statistics office there are now 2,100,100 foreigners living in Switzerland, 2.5 percent more than the previous year, when the foreign population broke through the two million barrier for the first time.
That’s nearly a quarter (24.9 percent) of the total permanent resident population of Switzerland, which rose to 8,417,700 in 2016, a 1.1 percent rise on the previous year, said the statistics office.
 
Some 192,700 people arrived in Switzerland in 2016, 2.2 percent up on the previous year. But only 168,300 of those were foreign nationals, the rest being returning Swiss.
 
Some 86,700 foreigners and 30,600 Swiss left the country, leaving an immigration balance of 75,400, an increase on the previous year. 
 
The immigration figures include people who may have previously been living in Switzerland on a non-permanent basis, before receiving a permanent (meaning B or C) residence permit in 2016.
 
But where do they all live? 
 
 
Unsurprisingly, the economic hubs of Zurich, Geneva and Vaud (including Lausanne) have the highest numbers of foreigners, attracted by jobs, high salaries and a standard of living that’s regularly considered among the best in the worldif expensive
 
Zurich has the most, with 395,136 foreigners calling the canton (including the city) home. 
 
The canton of Vaud is second with 263,775 foreigners, and Geneva third. 
 
However when looking at the figures as a percentage of the population, Geneva tops the list, with its 196,738 foreigners comprising a huge 40 percent of its total resident population. That’s followed by 35 percent in Basel-City, 33 percent in Vaud, 28 percent in Ticino, while Zurich comes in at 26 percent.
 
The figures do not include the substantial number of cross-border workers, with whom Ticino’s relationship has been fractious in recent years.
 
Percentage-wise, the figure is also above the national average in the canton of Zug – known for having among the lowest tax rates in Switzerland – where 27 percent of the population is foreign.
 
A 2013 study named Zug as the most attractive place in Switzerland for companies to relocate to, in part because of its attractive tax rates. 
 
But it's not a completely easy life -- in 2015 the canton quashed an idea to exempt rich foreigners from having to learn German in order to get a C permit. It was originally proposed as a way to attract more foreign multi-millionaires to the canton.
 
The central Swiss cantons of Schwyz, Nidwalden, Lucerne and Appenzell Ausserrhoden were also picked out by the study for their low taxes, while Basel-City and Zurich were praised for their good transport links. 
 
Going back to the 2016 figures, at the other end of the scale the fewest number of foreigners live in the conservative canton of Appenzell Innerrhoden. Its foreign population of 1,772 only grew by 0.2 percent in 2016 – the lowest growth in the country – and currently makes up 11 percent of the population.
 
As you’d expect with a mostly transient population, foreigners here are younger than the Swiss population as a whole. While the average age for a foreigner is 37, it’s 44 for a Swiss.
 
However the stats also revealed that there are (as of last December) 91 foreigners aged over 100 living in Switzerland. That’s compared with 1,463 Swiss.
 
That makes a total of 1554 centenarians in Switzerland – a huge rise on the 12 living in the country back in 1950.
 
The term ‘foreigner’ refers to anyone without Swiss citizenship, meaning it also includes people born in Switzerland to foreign parents. 
 
Under Switzerland’s rigorous citizenship laws a person does not become Swiss simply by being born there.
 
 
 

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