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Are foreigners in Switzerland likely to experience some form of racism?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Are foreigners in Switzerland likely to experience some form of racism?
A number of people of different colour, ethnicity or nationality, are victims of racism. Photo by José Martín Ramírez Carrasco on Unsplash

As a foreigner living in Switzerland are you likely to experience some form of racism or xenophobia? New stats suggest many will. Tell us if you have in the survey at the bottom of the page.

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More than 17 percent of population with a migrant background, as well as those aged 15 to 39, are the main targets of racism in Switzerland, according to figures released on February 1st by the government’s Service for Combating Racism.

In all, 1.2 million people in Switzerland between the ages of 15 and 88 reported being discriminated against in the past five years.

Where is racism most prevalent?

Racially-based discrimination permeates all areas of life, but is especially found in the workplace, the study found.

In fact, among people who said they are victims of racism, 69 percent cited differences in treatment during the hiring process, insults and ‘moral harassment' at work, as well as wage inequality.

Thirty percent of respondents have reported racial incidents in public spaces, while 27 percent experienced these episodes in schools.

What else does the report reveal about racism in Switzerland?

It shows that 13 percent of victims were discriminated because of their nationality, 5 percent because of their skin colour, 4 percent due to their ethnicity, and the same percentage because of their religion.

In terms of people who are most ‘racist,’ the study found than men, people from non-migrant backgrounds, older people, as well as those living in rural areas are more likely to be bothered by people perceived as “different.”

They also tend to have more hostile attitudes toward blacks, Muslims, Jews, and foreigners.

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‘Systemic racism’

The report has confirmed what other studies and surveys have found as well.

In 2023, for instance, a United Nations human rights group indicated the existence of systemic racism in Switzerland.

"This includes discrimination or exclusion based on racial criteria, such as skin colour, names, languages, accents, etc, as well as prejudices built up throughout history and now so deeply rooted in our society that they go unnoticed.”

Switzerland's ambassador to the UN in Geneva broadly accepted the findings, although he questioned "the study’s use of a limited number of examples to draw wider conclusions." 

READ ALSO: Switzerland acknowledges 'systemic racism' in the country

And that kind of attitude sometimes continues even after these foreigners obtain Swiss citizenship.

For instance, as The Local reported earlier, foreigners who become Swiss but who have distinctly foreign names or are visibly of other ethnic backgrounds, don’t have the same opportunities to get hired as their native Swiss counterparts.

There is, however, some positive news as well.

The government’s report indicates that the majority of Swiss population "mainly rejects racist attitudes,” citing statistics indicating “an increasingly critical spirit towards racist attitudes.”

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Comments (1)

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Ajay X 2024/02/03 19:13
I suspect a significantly larger number of racist incidents are never ever reported, so the numbers are likely way way worse! Being a foreigner (with tanned skin) who’s has the great fortune of working & living in a number of countries globally, as well as settled & fully integrated in to Swiss society (10+yrs). I can honestly say that Racism is by far the worst I’ve ever seen and still continue to experience. I would say the number is closer to 80+% than the reported 17%.. A large part of it, and probably what’s worse, most Swiss don’t even realized how racist or prejudice they actually are, as it’s so ingrained into the culture as ‘normal’ behavior/attitude.. I see it everywhere; in my kids school (by other kids & teachers), shops, healthcare centers, in interviews, at the office, airport, dating and even at the geminde.. The funny part of it all, is when they hear me speak upper Swiss German or my British accent and the complete confusion on their faces! For me, having grown up with Racism around me, I’m more than happy to correct someone for their prejudices immediately, but in most cases, I am able to easily brush it off knowing it’s part of the cultural ignorance.. More education is needed, in my opinion as well as ambassadors to support the cause! Love more / Hate Less folks - Life’s too short!

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