Foreigners in Switzerland ‘twice as likely to be unemployed’

Research from Switzerland's Federal Statistical Office shows how prevalent unemployment is among the country's foreign residents, even though they are more qualified than Swiss nationals.

People sitting at a table during a job interview
Foreigners in Switzerland are twice as likely to be unemployed as naturalised Swiss. Photo by Sebastiano Piazzi on Unsplash

While moving to Switzerland in pursuit of work is a major factor for many, the study also found a higher level of unemployment among foreigners when compared to the general population. 

The unemployment rate among foreigners is seven percent, compared to just three percent for Swiss nationals without a migration background. 

This is the case despite foreigners in Switzerland being ‘overqualified’ in compared to Swiss nationals.

The FSO found that 19 percent of unemployed first generation foreigners were overqualified, compared with 12 percent of Swiss nationals without a migration background. Unemployed second generation foreigners were also deemed to be 12 percent overqualified. 

READ MORE: Is Basel the best Swiss city for foreigners and Geneva the worst?

First generation foreigners also had less seniority in their workplaces than second generation or Swiss nationals, although the difference was relatively negligible. 

In total, 32 percent of first generation foreigners had a managerial function, compared with 35 percent of Swiss nationals or 32 percent of second generation foreigners. 

The Swiss government was careful to point out that this study only took into account migration status and employment status.

Other factors such as age and education level were not considered but would be relevant in determining employment outcomes. 

More information about the study and its underlying statistics can be found here

Almost 40 percent of Swiss residents have a ‘migration background’

Over 2.7 million people in Switzerland — 38 percent of the permanent residents  aged 15 and over — had a migration background in 2020, according to new data from the Swiss Statistics Office (FSO).

Compared to 2019, this represents an increase of 0.3 percentage points.

Among the population with a foreign background, 80 percent (2.2 million) were born abroad, while the remaining 20 percent (530,000) were born in Switzerland.

The amount of foreigners tends to be higher in the cities such as Zurich and Geneva, although some less urbanised cantons such as Ticino also have a high proportion of foreign residents or residents with a migration background. 

READ MORE: Where in Switzerland do all the international residents live?

Where do foreigners living in Switzerland come from? 

As this FSO chart shows, most represented nationalities among the migrant population are Italian and German.

The following shows the percentages of the total foreign population, rather than the percentage of the population as a whole, including Swiss nationals. 

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Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Switzerland is not known for being a cheap country and property prices are higher than in other European countries, but it's still possible to find property bargains, some for even under CHF 100k.

Where to find property in Switzerland for under CHF 500k

Property prices are rising in much of Europe and Switzerland is no exception. As the average salary is high in Switzerland, finding homes for under CHF 1 million in some parts of the country becomes almost impossible.

Even when you do find cheap properties, they are sometimes quite literally too good to be true. For example, Switzerland’s famous one-franc home scheme had to be scrapped after nobody signed up. The cheap homes were, actually, too expensive when considering the costs for renovation or even how remote they were.

READ ALSO: Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

Some of the properties in the scheme weren’t connected to the electricity grid, sewer system or even roads.

So, where can we find cheap(er) homes in Switzerland – that are still liveable or could be excellent investments for those who enjoy fixer-uppers (or huge DIY projects)?

Not an easy search

To find these gems, we used a property website that allowed us to search for real estate in the whole of Switzerland (instead of just a few main cities) and showed us homes with at least three rooms.

The price limit was set at CHF 500,000 (while our colleagues in Germany had theirs set at €100k, but, hey, this is Switzerland).

As of August 2022, we found 203 houses and 80 apartments following these criteria on sale.

Most of these definitely need some fixing up, but you can still snatch a home for under CHF 500,000 with lovely views of lakes and mountains or big terraces and gardens.

Going through the addresses with some of the properties, some things stand out:

Head for the border – most of the most affordable places are in Italian-speaking Switzerland. However, you can also find some of them in the French regions. In both cases, they are located very near the border with France or Italy.

Forget about cities – All the properties we found are quite far from the major cities of Zürich, Bern, and Geneva, which makes sense as the cost of living tends to rise in those regions. If you’re looking for a cheap home, you’re highly unlikely to find one in city centres.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

Consider property type – It is also worth mentioning that there seemed to be a distinction between the homes in the west and those in the south. In the French region, there are more apartments and newer properties, with some outstanding options.

While in the Italian south, most of the properties are houses – and you need to inspect well because some will need a lot of work.

Research services – You should definitely check carefully the property’s location – some are not connected to basic services or even roads.

Renovation costs – Almost all of the properties we found were ‘renovation projects’. Some can turn out to be very good investments, but it takes time and work to renovate. Before buying, get an estimate of the likely works so you can see whether the property really will save you money in the long term, and be honest about your level of DIY/building skills and how much work you are willing or able to do.

Extra costs – Besides renovating costs, you must be mindful of property taxes and other living costs and how much they are in the region where you are buying property. Prices can vary quite widely depending on the canton, so research well.

You can check all our Property in Switzerland stories here.