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In Numbers: Who makes up Zurich's record population?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
In Numbers: Who makes up Zurich's record population?
The number of Zurich residents has swelled in 2022. Image by Brian Merrill from Pixabay

At nearly half a million people, Switzerland’s largest city Zurich now has the highest number of residents in its history. But what percentage is made of foreigners?


At the end of 2022, the population of Switzerland’s largest city rose to 443,037 people, breaking the record reached in 1963, when Zurich counted 440,180 inhabitants.

Since then, numbers have been gradually dropping, mostly due to the low birth rate.

This data, published by municipal authorities on Tuesday, shows that “the strong population growth in 2022 is largely due to immigration, increasing the number of residents by 14 percent compared to the previous year. The nearly 45,000 new arrivals in 2022 are the highest since 2007.”

In fact, the foreign population grew more significantly than the Swiss one: last year, 260 new Swiss nationals, and 6,445 foreigners swelled the number of the city’s inhabitants.

Interestingly, the population increase was 4 percent among the Swiss, and a whooping 96 percent among the foreigners.


How do Zurich officials explain this substantial disparity?

The year 2022 saw more foreigners move to the city due to the war in Ukraine.

Out of 6,445 foreign nationals who came to Zurich last year, 2,825 were Ukrainian refugees.

“This means that about a third of the population growth in 2022 is due to immigration from Ukraine," officials say.

However, this influx may well be a temporary one, as the government expects most of these refugees to return to Ukraine once the war is over.

Among other foreigners currently in Zurich, people from Germany constitute the largest group, followed by those from Italy and Portugal. 

This corresponds to the national trend, as Italians, Germans, and Portuguese still make up the largest proportion of foreigners in Switzerland as a whole.

However, growing population creates some challenges as well, as this article explains: 

Zurich hit by affordable housing shortage amid record-high immigration

Here's some more interesting information about the city's population from the 19th century to now:

  • Zurich experienced its first “growth spurt” in 1893, when the city counted 316,000 inhabitants.
  • The resident population grew rapidly in the 1940s and 1950s, and the highest number was reached in 1962: 440,180 people (only one less than presently)
  • By 1989, the population had fallen below 356,000 people.
  • Since the beginning of the 21st century, Zurich has been growing again, picking up in strength from 2010 onwards.

Today, Zurich is Switzerland’s economic powerhouse, with many international businesses located in its vicinity.
 READ MORE: 10 ways to save money if you live in Zurich


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