Immigration For Members

IN NUMBERS: Understanding Switzerland's growing foreign population

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
IN NUMBERS: Understanding Switzerland's growing foreign population
Increasing numbers of foreigners arrive in Switzerland. Photo: Skitter / Pexels

After immigration came to a standstill during the pandemic, the number of foreign nationals settling in Switzerland has been on the upward trend in the past two years.


In 2023, the number of foreign nationals living in Switzerland rose to 2,416,400, or 27 percent of the permanent resident population.

This is what emerges from new data published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) on Thursday.

It shows that in all, 241,700 people immigrated to Switzerland in 2023, an increase of 38.2 percent compared to 2022.

In fact, having doubled between 2022 and 2023 from 2.3 to 5.2 percent, foreign residents have experienced faster growth than Swiss population.

Where have these new arrivals come from?

Most — 44.9 percent — are citizens of EU and EFTA states (the latter including Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein), with German, French and Italian nationalities making up the majority.

Just over 20 percent (53,100), are Ukrainian refugees.

Interestingly, in the first year after Russia attacked their country in February 2022, Swiss authorities regarded Ukrainians as non-permanent residents.

Now, however, as the war had passed the two-year-mark, they are counted as permanent population — at least for statistical purposes.


Where do these foreign nationals live?

According to FSO, vast majority of them (571,227) live in the Lake Geneva area, which encompasses Vaud (275, 659 foreign nationals), Geneva (210, 957), and Valais (84, 611).

Next is the Zurich area, home to 438,316 foreign nationals.

The Mitteland follows, with the total foreign population of 382,567. In that particular region, the highest concentration of foreigners — 178,776 people —is in the Bern area.

Nearly 295,000 foreigners can be found in eastern part of Switzerland, and about 180,000 in cantons of central Switzerland.

Roughly 100,000 live in Ticino.


Will the influx of foreigners abate or continue?

The FSO study does not provide any forecasts in this regard.

But assuming that the current influx of people from abroad continues at the same pace, demographers are expecting Switzerland’s current population of 9 million residents to reach the 10-million mark in a few years — mainly due to continued immigration. 

Experts say this considerable increase is a double-edged sword: while the Swiss economy has always relied on foreign labour, further immigration would weigh on infrastructure such as housing, energy supply, schools hospitals, and public transport.

For this reason, the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) is set to launch a national vote to curb immigration before Switzerland’s population swells up to 10 million.

READ ALSO: Switzerland faces new anti-immigration vote


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