immigrant For Members

Where in Switzerland do all the international residents live?

Author thumbnail
Daniel Wighton - [email protected]
Where in Switzerland do all the international residents live?
The Swiss city of Bern. Photo: Depositphotos

Almost one third of adult residents of Switzerland are born outside the country - but where in Switzerland do they all live? We take a closer look.


Figures from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office have provided a breakdown of where foreigners live in Switzerland - and how many there are. 

Among Swiss residents 15 years of age and over, 30.2 percent are not born in Switzerland - a total of 2,165,000 people out of just over seven million people in Switzerland aged 15 or over. The total population of Switzerland is 8.5 million.

A further 7.3 percent - 521,000 - are second-generation Swiss, meaning that almost 40 percent of adult Swiss have a migration background. 

READ: Do foreigners living in Switzerland have a lower quality of life? 

While every Swiss canton has foreign-born residents, that number is much higher in the largest Swiss cantons. 

In Zurich, Switzerland’s largest canton, 439,000 residents are foreign-born - making up roughly 34.5 percent of the population. 

In Vaud, 274,000 are foreign-born (41.5 percent), along with 163,000 (28.6 percent) in Argau and 143,000 (50.8 percent) in Geneva. 

At the other end of the spectrum, there are approximately 1,000 foreign-born residents of Appenzell Innerrhoden (11.2 percent), along with 4,000 in Obwalden (13.5 percent) and 5,000 in Uri (15.9 percent). 


Percentage change

When compared to 2018 figures, there was a slight increase in the foreign-born population, from 30 percent to 30.2 percent - or 2,134,000 to 2,165,000 (an increase of 31,000). 

Going back to 2012, where the foreign-born percentage of the population was 27,7 percent (1,870,000), there has been an increase of 295,000 foreigners. 

In numbers: What do we know about Switzerland’s foreign residents?

Swiss-born children of immigrants

The figures also showed how many Swiss were ‘second generation’, i.e. they had been born in the country but their parents were not born in Switzerland. 

Second generation Swiss children of foreigners make up 7.3 percent of the population. 

The largest percentage of second generation Swiss resides in Ticino (12.2 percent), Geneva (11.7 percent), Solothurn (8.8 percent) and Zurich (8.6 percent). 

A boat on the border between Italy and Switzerland. Photo: Depositphotos

Migration background

When taking into account foreign-born residents as well as second generation Swiss, a total of 37.5 percent of the adult population has a recent background of migration. 

As with the first generation statistics, by and large the bigger Swiss cities had the highest numbers of foreigners or Swiss with a migrant background. 

Almost two thirds of Geneva residents (62.4 percent) had a migrant background, while the figure was just short of 50 percent in Vaud, Ticino and Basel. Zurich had a total of 548,000 residents with a migrant background, making up 43 percent of the canton’s total population. 

The figures used in the report were released in November 2019 from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. 



Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also