For members


Which is Switzerland’s ‘most Swiss’ canton?

Roughly a quarter of Switzerland’s population is foreign, with some regions being more international than others. But which cantons are the ‘Swiss-est’ of them all?

Which is Switzerland’s ‘most Swiss’ canton?
Some areas of Switzerland are much more "Swiss" than others. Photo by Pixabay

The Local has written at length about the cantons that have the highest concentration of foreign nationals.

Not surprisingly, as most foreigners move to Switzerland for economic opportunities, vast majority live where the best-paid jobs are, such as in or near Zurich or the shores of Lake Geneva, which also encompass parts of Vaud.

Not coincidentally, these are also regions with highest rents:

Swiss rents: This is where cheapest and priciest apartments are

The proportion of foreigners — 60 percent — is highest in Geneva, according to the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

The rates are also particularly high in the cantons of Zurich, Zug, Basel-City, Schaffhausen, Ticino, Vaud, and Neuchâtel, FSO said.

This means that, as a whole, all of the above cantons are “least Swiss” in terms of the origin of its population.

READ MORE: Where do Switzerland’s foreigners all live?

What about the “most Swiss” regions?

At the opposite end of the  cantons listed above, there are also places in Switzerland were few foreigners settle and most residents are Swiss.

Again according to FSO data, Appenzell Innerrhoden and Uri have — at 11 and 12 percent respectively — fewest immigrants in their midst.

Next come Nidwalden with 14 percent, followed by Obwalden and Jura with 15 percent each.

This means that in these five cantons, Swiss population is overwhelmingly dominant, and they can therefore be considered as “most Swiss”.

What about individual cities?

In terms of municipalities, there are quite a few where the percentage of Swiss residents far outweighs the proportion of foreigners.

In these cities, nearly 80 percent of residents are Swiss nationals: Luzern, St. Gallen, Winterthur, Solothurn, Chur, and Sion, among others.

However, the “most Swiss” label can be misleading.

While we have focused here on Swiss versus foreign population, the definition of “Swissness” can go beyond demographics and fall under various other categories. In other words, it can mean different things to different people.

For many, this may mean a place where most of Switzerland’s customs and traditions are still alive, or a town / region  which symbolises Switzerland the most.

This is a subjective call, as it depends on what criteria is applied.

But these are some ideas:


As Switzerland’s capital — or federal city, as Swiss prefer to think of it — it is the country’s political epicentre and could qualify as the “Swissest” part of the country.

READ MORE: Why is Bern the ‘capital’ of Switzerland?


A mountain meadow, reportedly the site of the historic 1291 oath marking the foundation of the original Swiss Confederacy. 


Graubünden’s capital is the oldest town in Switzerland, with a 5,000-year-old settlement history.


The small Fribourg town is the home of Cailler, Switzerland’s oldest chocolate manufacturer.


The Valais resort lies picturesquely at the foot of the famous Matterhorn.

Zermatt is one of the many places in Switzerland where it is difficult to get a second home.

Zermatt in the Swiss alps. Photo by Gabriel Garcia Marengo on Unsplash

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For members


EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut social assistance for non-Europeans

The Swiss government has unveiled a proposal which would cut social assistance for non-European residents. Here’s what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: How Switzerland wants to cut social assistance for non-Europeans

As part of a draft revision of the law on foreigners and integration, the Federal Council is proposing to reduce social assistance paid to nationals of third countries.

“During the first three years following the granting a residence permit, the rate of social assistance should be lower than that applied to the native population”, authorities said.

The rationale of the plan is to “create incentives for better work integration”. 

The proposal has been developed by Justice Minister Karin Keller-Sutter. 

The project was in a consultation phase until May 3rd, after which it will be presented to Swiss parliament.

The cut would save an estimated three million francs per year nationwide. 

What does the proposal say? 

Under the plan, the amount of social assistance will be reduced in the first three years for foreigners in Switzerland, provided they come from outside the EU. 

The social aid paid to non-Europeans is already relatively low, with amounts varying from CHF600 to CHF1,000 depending on the canton. 

READ MORE: How Switzerland wants to cut welfare and boost integration for non-EU citizens

Anyone who has a ‘C’ category residency permit and who receives social assistance will lose it more easily than under the previous scheme. 

The law will also see a more defined set of requirements for integration for temporarily admitted persons. 

In addition, the Federal Statistical Office should regularly report accurate figures of how many foreigners are receiving social assistance. 

In addition, the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) must approve the extension of residency permits of individuals who incur “significant” social welfare costs. 

Keller-Sutter will also draw up a uniform set of recommendations for social assistance for foreigners for the cantons. 

What are people saying? 

While the proposal has not yet been finalised, the idea has sparked heavy criticism, while some foreigners are fearful of what it might mean for them should the assistance be lowered. 

A spokesperson for the Social Democrats told Swiss tabloid Blick a cut would be “unworldly and cynical”, while the Greens say such a move would be unconstitutional. 

The proposal sparked criticism from the Swiss Workers’ Welfare Organisation, whose spokesperson, Caroline Morel, pointed out that “in social assistance, the amount of support benefits is calculated according to needs and not the length of stay in Switzerland”.

“We oppose the downgrading of the residence status of foreigners who receive social assistance. We also oppose lower social assistance rates for the first three years, as these are inhumane and hinder professional and social integration.”

“It is clear that these tightening measures will primarily affect vulnerable people such as children, people with special needs, and women”, she added.

The Swiss People’s Party on the other hand have spoken out in favour of the changes, saying it would help curb increases in social assistance contributions.