Quality of life For Members

How foreigners in Switzerland have worse living conditions than the Swiss

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
How foreigners in Switzerland have worse living conditions than the Swiss
Immigrants often live in tighter spaces than the Swiss. Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

There are certain aspects of life in Switzerland where immigrants are disadvantaged compared to the Swiss, a new study reveals.


While most foreign residents in Switzerland are doing fairly well from the economic point of view — or at least better than they would in their home countries — many differences in living standards persist.

This is what emerges from a study called “Integration of the population with migration background," published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on Tuesday.

“Migration background” refers to about 40 percent of Switzerland’s population that includes not just current immigrants, but also previous generations.

READ ALSO: Nearly 40 percent of Swiss residents have 'migration background'

What did the study find?

The FSO examined various areas to find out how foreign population (as defined above) is faring in comparison to their Swiss counterparts.

It did not offer explanations for the differences though.

These are some of the results:

Living conditions

Single-person households with no migration background have almost 1.2 times as many square metres of living space per person as those with a migration background, FSO reported.

In households with two people or more, "those without a migration background have 1.4 times as many square metres per person as those without such a background."
This is in line with an earlier study, which found that “immigrants usually occupy less housing space than the Swiss — in other words, the type of apartments they are looking for don’t compete with those that the permanent population favours." 

Specifically, based on data from 2021, the "average living area of a Swiss household was 52.2 square metres, while that of a household of foreign nationality was 37.6 square meters.”



One in five foreign nationals with post-secondary or higher-level diplomas often work in positions that do not require such a diploma and could be performed by people with lower qualifications.

The FSO found that while only 14 percent of Swiss nationals are employed in jobs for which they are overqualified, for foreign nationals this figure is 21 percent.

Also, the population without a migration background has an unemployment rate that is less than half that of the population with a migration background.

Another finding: people with a migration background – particularly those in the first generation – occupy a low-wage position more often than those without a migration background.


The poverty rate among the population with a migration background – particularly the first generation – is higher than that among the population without a migration background.

In fact, “people living in a household with a migration background are more than three times as likely to have difficulty making ends meet than people living in a household without such a background,” the FSO reported.


Social assistance

Irrespective of their place of birth, the social assistance rate among foreign nationals is higher than that of Swiss citizens.

However, this particular study did not include the benefits that foreign nationals employed in Switzerland bring to the country’s social insurance scheme:

READ ALSO: Immigrants make positive contributions to Swiss social system


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