More than a third of the Swiss population “might feel uncomfortable in the presence of people perceived to be different”, according to a survey by the Swiss statistics office (BFS).
Attitudes towards race, religion and nationality were published on Tuesday as part of a 2016 survey on diversity and coexistence
, and the results showed that 36 percent of the population may feel uncomfortable towards people with perceived differences.
The strength of this feeling varied depending on the characteristic: six percent said they were bothered by someone with a different skin colour or nationality to their own; ten percent by a different religion and 12 percent by someone speaking a different language; while 21 percent said they were troubled by people leading an unsettled life.
According to the survey, it's in the workplace where people are most likely to feel uncomfortable about difference.
Some 16 percent of those surveyed went a step further, saying they felt threatened by foreigners in Switzerland – while four percent said they felt threatened by Swiss people.
The survey also studied negative attitudes towards certain groups and found that people in Switzerland are more hostile towards Muslims than other groups. However hostility towards Muslim people was less pronounced than suspicion of Islam in general, which rose to 33 percent in 2016.
The statistics office also studied the personal experiences of those surveyed, and found that 27 percent felt they had been subjected to at least one form of discrimination during the past five years.
A clear majority of those said their nationality was the reason behind the discrimination, and around half said the discrimination occurred in the workplace or was related to job hunting.
Despite this, the survey found that most of the Swiss population has a tolerant attitude towards foreigners’ rights: 64 percent of those surveyed were against sending foreigners home if Swiss jobs are in short supply; 60 percent were in favour of a foreigner’s family members being able to join them in Switzerland; and 56 percent accepted the idea of automatic naturalization of second generation foreigners.
In addition, 65 percent of people surveyed rejected the idea that the presence of foreigners created feelings of insecurity in the streets, and 68 percent did not think foreigners were responsible for raising unemployment.
More than half of those surveyed said the integration of immigrants in Swiss society was working well, however 66 percent said racism was a major social problem and around a third felt that measures in place to combat racism and discrimination were insufficient.
Instigated by the Swiss government in 2015, the diversity and coexistence study monitors the extent of racism, xenophobia and discrimination in Switzerland through a survey of 3,000 people conducted every two years.
"The presence of many social groups and a variety of affiliations is a feature of life in Switzerland," said the statistics office. "This diversity is enriching for society but can also create challenges in living together. The BFS's new survey helps us to feel the pulse of multicultural coexistence in Switzerland."
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