Immigration For Members

What do the Swiss actually think of foreigners?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
What do the Swiss actually think of foreigners?
Many foreigners come to Switzerland through one of it'd borders, like this one with Italy. Photo by AFP

Around one in four residents of Switzerland is a foreigner. What do the Swiss actually think of them?


The Local examined statistics released by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) for 2018 — the last year for which such figures are available. They “indicate the level of openness of the population, by focusing on the attitudes toward foreigners' rights and on their behaviours.”

“In general, the population is tolerant”, the FSO found.

For instance, 67 percent of those surveyed are against sending back foreign nationals to their country of origin when Swiss jobs become scarce; 61 percent are for the family reunification of foreigners who have lived in Switzerland for at least five years.

As far as participation of foreign nationals in the Swiss political process, 47 percent support this idea but 52 percent oppose it. 

READ MORE: EU immigration: Switzerland’s foreign workers in numbers 

Other results are just as telling.

For instance, 64 percent believe that foreign workers are essential for Switzerland’s economy, while slightly more — 66 percent — think that immigrants do the work that Swiss natives don’t want to do.

The vast majority, 70 percent, rejected the argument of Switzerland’s populist groups that foreigners are responsible for any increases in the unemployment rate.


The population is divided in regards to another claim by rightwing parties — that foreigners abuse Swiss social benefits: 51 percent didn’t agree with this statement, while 47 percent did.

Right-wing groups such as Swiss People’s Party (SVP), which is behind September's migration limitation referendum, also argue that Switzerland became less safe due to the influx of foreigners. 

However, 71 percent disagreed with this, and 70 percent reject another SVP contention — that the presence of immigrants in the classroom has a negative effect on the education of Swiss children.

These numbers show that the Swiss have a mostly positive attitude towards foreigners in their midst.

However, a study conducted in 2019 by the National Center of Competence in Research, which analyses migration and mobility, shows that, in certain cases, immigrants are discriminated against when looking for a job.

The study found that people with foreign backgrounds must submit 30 percent more applications than native Swiss candidates in order to be invited to a job interview — even if their qualifications are the same.

Job hunting?

Other research shows that a similar phenomenon affects the search for apartments.

Sociologists from the Universities of Geneva, Neuchâtel and Lausanne conducted an experimental study on discrimination in the Swiss housing market by sending 11,000 fictitious applications in response to real estate advertisements.

They found that candidates with Kosovar or Turkish names were not given as many opportunities to view apartments as non-foreign applicants or applicants with European names, even though such practices are illegal in Switzerland.

But researchers said that Switzerland is no exception and similar discrimination against foreign job and housing applicants exists in other European countries as well.








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