Could Switzerland's population decline instead of hitting 10 million mark?

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 17 Jan, 2023 Updated Tue 17 Jan 2023 11:44 CEST
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One of the forecasts calls for the Swiss population to grow, the other to decrease. Image by Keith Johnston from Pixabay

It has long been predicted that Switzerland's population would hit the nine million mark in 2023, then at some point in the future crash through the landmark 10 million. But perhaps this outlook is mistaken. We explore what's going on.

Forecasts, whether related to weather or population growth, are just that — forecasts.

They are predictions on what could happen in the future, based not only on available data, but also on ways of measuring it and interpreting the results, which can differ from one researcher to another.

This is what appears to be the case regarding population forecasts.

While some studies indicate that Switzerland’s population is expected to exceed 9 million people this year, and reach 10 million a few years down the road due to increased number of immigrants who have arrived in the country in the past two decades, other analysts forecast the downward trend instead. 

“We talk a lot about Switzerland with 10 million inhabitants; but I doubt we will ever reach this number,” according to Hendrik Budliger, founder and director of the Competence Center for Demography in Basel.
 
“Currently, one has the impression that Switzerland, with its high salary level and its flourishing economy, will remain eternally attractive for immigrants,” he said. “But this is false.”
 
Budliger’s scenario calls for “the Swiss population to decrease.”

To support this hypotheses, he cited the example of the Portuguese immigrants "who are returning to the country en masse. And it is no longer the 'old' who return, but the young people".

Whichever of the predicted scenarios comes to be, different problems will ensue.

The population increase scenario would entail added strain on the country’s infrastructure and resources, including the already scarce housing supply. Schools, healthcare system, energy consumption, and food supply, would also likely feel the impact of this demographic growth.

READ MORE: ‘Uninterrupted demographic growth’: How is immigration impacting Switzerland? 

The other forecast will present challenges as well.

As foreigners leave Switzerland and more people grow older and retire each year, "this situation will cause big problems", Budliger said.

With the working-age population diminishing — whether through emigration or retirement — so will the much-needed tax revenues.

And the labour market will suffer from shortages of employees in many sectors — as it does already.

Which of the two scenarios is more likely for Switzerland? Only time will tell.

READ MORE: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

 

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Helena Bachmann in Geneva 2023/01/17 11:44

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