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Foreign nationals in Switzerland pay higher rents, new figures reveal

Helena Bachmann in Geneva
Helena Bachmann in Geneva - [email protected] • 20 Mar, 2023 Updated Mon 20 Mar 2023 07:57 CEST
Foreign nationals in Switzerland pay higher rents, new figures reveal
Foreigners may pay higher rent and liver in smaller apartments. Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

New figures are indicating a worrying housing trend: many Swiss landlords require tenants with immigration background to pay more for their accommodations.

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A new national study has shown that a non-immigrant couple without children pays an average of 1,550 francs in rent for a 100-square-metre flat outside of notoriously high-rent cities like Geneva and Zurich.

Foreign tenants, on the other hand, pay an average of 190 francs more per month for an apartment of the same size.

This inequality is all the more unfair because there are more poor people among foreigners than among the Swiss, MP Mustafa Atici pointed out: 13.6 percent for the former group, compared to 6.8 percent for the latter. 

But that’s not all: foreigners not only pay more per square-metre of living space, but they also live in smaller homes: their dwellings have, on average, eight square metres less surface than apartments where the Swiss live.


To counter this situation, Atici is calling on the Federal Council to make it easier for tenants to take legal action against discrimination in the housing market.

Another MP, Carlo Sommaruga, had already submitted a similar motion.

This is not a new phenomenon, as a study published a few years ago demonstrated that immigrants had more difficulty obtaining housing in general.

The study, conducted jointly by several French-speaking universities, shows in particular that people with a Turkish or Kosovar name had to provide an average of 30 percent more effort than the rest of the population to find apartments.

Earlier studies have shown that a foreign origin or a foreign-sounding name can spark discriminatory practices in other areas as well.

For instance, car insurance premiums often depend on the country of origin. 

Insurance companies justify this system by pointing out that it is based on statistics: in determining premiums, they consider criteria such as age, driving record, car type, and, yes, also nationality.

All these factors influence the probability of an accident, and data indicates that certain foreigners are involved in more accidents than others.

"If statistics show that people who hold a certain citizenship tend to make more claims or be involved in more incidents than people of other nationalities, those statistics may influence the premiums charged," according to Moneyland price comparison platform.

READ MORE : Why foreigners in Switzerland pay higher car insurance premiums 

And there is more: the foreign-name bias also spills into the employment market.

An analysis by the Swiss National Science Foundation showed that, on average, foreigners were 6.5 percent less likely than Swiss nationals to be contacted by recruiters for an interview. 

“This discrimination was particularly pronounced among immigrants from the Balkans, Africa, the Middle East and Asia, who often have to battle prejudice”, said Daniel Kopp, an economist at the Swiss Institute for Business Cycle Research.

READ MORE: Jobs in Switzerland: Foreigners 'less likely to be hired than Swiss nationals'


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