Immigration For Members

‘Fewer advantages’: Four things to know about Switzerland's foreign residents

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
‘Fewer advantages’: Four things to know about Switzerland's foreign residents
The number of people with migration background has increased. Photo: Pixabay

From the number of people in Switzerland with a migration background to naturalisation figures, here's a look at new government research into foreign nationals living in Switzerland.


The study, the Swiss Labour Force Survey carried out by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO), looked into various aspects of the people with the migration background — either those who immigrated to Switzerland themselves, or who were born in the country of foreign parents. 

These are some of the key findings:
Nearly four out of 10 residents of Switzerland have a migration background

By the end of 2021, 39 percent of the population aged 15 or over were either immigrants themselves or came from immigrant families.

Out of that number, 31 percent belongs to the first generation and eight percent to the second, while 40 percent have Swiss nationality.


Fewer advantages 

So what can we learn about people with a foreign background in Switzerland from the study?

According to researchers, people who fall into this category generally face a tougher time. 

“With a few exceptions, the population with a migration background has fewer advantages than the non-migrant population in many areas of life,” the study found.
For instance, the unemployment rate among those with a migration background is twice as high as that of people without a migration background — 8 percent versus 3 percent.

However, there are a few exceptions, especially among foreigners born in Switzerland.

A person in the snow

Photo by Daniel Bowman on Unsplash

“In most areas of life, people from the second generation occupy a position that is closer to those who do not have a migration background. For example, they have an over-qualification rate similar to that of the non-immigrant population,” researchers said.

“These results indicate a gradual integration of the population with a migration background over generations.”

READ MORE: Reader question: What does being 'successfully integrated' in Switzerland mean?


People of migrant origin use at least two national languages more regularly than others in Switzerland. 

The frequent use of two languages is particularly widespread among the second generation, the study found.


In 2021, two-thirds of people who acquired Swiss nationality were born abroad and a third in Switzerland (63 percent compared to 37 percent).

The reason is that Switzerland doesn’t grant automatic citizenship upon birth, and people born in the country with foreign parents must apply for naturalisation.

Almost two-thirds of foreign-born people who acquired Swiss nationality had been living in Switzerland for less than 20 years. They were mainly of German (21 percent), Italian (11 percent) and French (9 percent) nationality.

And 19 percent of the permanent resident population has dual nationality — a foreign passport in addition to the Swiss one. The latter was, in the majority of cases (65 percent) obtained by naturalisation.

READ MORE: IN NUMBERS: How many people become Swiss each year - and where do they come from?



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