More and more Swiss are leaving Switzerland — but where do they go?

More and more Swiss are leaving Switzerland — but where do they go?
THOMAS COEX / AFP
While Switzerland is thought of as an immigration nation where foreigners come for a better life, thousands of Swiss leave their homeland each year. But where do they live abroad?

The number of Swiss citizens leaving their country has increased in recent years, with fewer emigres returning after their stay abroad.

Government statistics show that about 28,000 left the country in 2008 and 22,000 of them came back. In 2017 and 2018, 32,000 Swiss emigrated, with 24,000 returning.

According to the Sonntagsblick newspaper, the favourite destinations of Swiss expatriates are France and Germany, but they also venture farther afield to the USA, Australia and Thailand. 

Some 36 percent of all emigrants are between 20 and 35 years old. They go abroad to study or work, says Michael Siegenthaler, labour market expert at the ETH Economic Research Center (KOF).

A second group is made up of former immigrants, mostly Italians and Portuguese, who return to their homelands as dual citizens.

Yet another group consists of Swiss pensioniers who go to live in warmer climates after their retirement.

But what motivates Swiss citizens to move to another country?

According to testimonials collected by Sonntagsblick, they cite reasons such as career opportunities, cultural life, humanitarian work, and retirement in warm weather.

An earlier study found that just over one in ten people with Swiss nationality now lives abroad, with 62 percent of them based in Europe,

Swiss citizens aged 18 and over who are officially registered as living abroad can vote in Swiss federal elections and can also stand for election at the federal level. Some cantons also allow for Swiss citizens abroad to vote on cantonal issues.

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