Immigration to Switzerland

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There has been significant immigration to Switzerland since the 1980s. By contrast, during the 19th century, emigration from Switzerland was more common, as Switzerland was economically a poor country where a large fraction of population survived on subsistence farming.

The largest immigrant groups in Switzerland are those from Italy, Germany, the Former Yugoslavia, Albania, Portugal and Turkey (Turks and Kurds). Between them, these five groups account for about 1.5 million people, 60% of the Swiss population with immigrant background, or close to 20% of total Swiss population.

The current federal law of December 16, 2005, on foreigners (the Foreign Nationals Act) came into force on January 1, 2008, replacing the Federal Act on the Residence and Establishment of Foreigners of 1931.[1]

Switzerland and Australia, with about a quarter of their population born outside the country, are the two countries with the highest proportion of immigrants in the western world.[2]

Switzerland also has the highest Potential Net Migration Index of any European country by a large margin, at +150% (followed by Sweden at +78%) according to a 2010 Gallup study; this means that out of an estimated 700 millon potential migrants worldwide, about 12 million (150% of Swiss resident population) would name Switzerland as their most desired country of residence.[3]

History[edit]

Permanent foreign residents as a percentage of the total population, 1900-2011

Industrialization and banking made Switzerland prosperous by the late 19th century and began to attract significant numbers of migrant workers. Free movement of population was established with neighbouring countries in the late 19th century, and as a consequence, there was an increase from 211,000 resident foreigners in 1880 (7.5% of total population) to 552,000 in 1910 (14.7% of total population).

There was net emigration of foreign residents during the World Wars era. The fraction of foreign residents fell to 10.4% by 1920, and to 5.1% by 1941. Immigration has picked up again after 1945. Beginning in the mid-1950s, immigration increased steeply, and the historical record of close to 15% foreigners prior to World War I was surpassed at some time during the 1960s.

Until the 1960s, the immigration policy remained largely liberal. In the 1960s, rapid economic growth in Switzerland led to a large increase in the number of foreign residents. Because of this, the Federal Council enacted a regulation to limit the number of foreigners in each company.[1][4]

In 1970, this per-company limit was replaced with a general limit for all recently arrived foreigners who were gainfully employed. In the 1970s, the number of foreigners decreased because of a period of recession. The proportion of foreigners to the total population, after growing steadily until 1974 and peaking at 16.8%, went down to 14.1% in 1979.[1]

The favorable economic climate of the 1980s brought a renewed demand for labour, which was filled by foreign workers. This led to an increase in the proportion of foreign permanent residents, from 14.8% in 1980 to 18.1% in 1990.[1] Between 1991 and 1998, the Federal Council replaced the previous system of admission with a binary system that distinguished between member states of the EU/EFTA and all other countries, which largely remains in force. With this reform, the possibility of recruiting unskilled workers from non-EU/EFTA countries was abolished, with the exception of family reunification and asylum applications.[1]

In 1996, the Federal Council established a commission on immigration (the Hug Commission) to establish a new policy on immigration. Based on its work, a second commission was established to draft a new law on immigration. In the 1990s, the proportion of foreigners continued to rise, from 18.1% to 20.9%.[1]

An agreement on the free movement of people, part of a series of bilateral agreements with the European Union, was signed on 21 June 1999 and approved on 21 May 2000 with 67.2% of the vote. The agreement on free movement entered into force on 1 June 2002. On 24 September 2006, the new law on foreigners was approved with 68% of votes in favor. The law came into force on 1 January 2008.[1] Switzerland is also a party to the Schengen and Dublin agreements. They were signed on 26 October 2004 and the collaboration actually began on 12 December 2008.[1]

In 2000, foreign permanent residents accounted for 20.9% of the population. In 2011, the percentage rose to 22.8%. In 2011, 22,551 people filed an application for asylum in Switzerland.[1] There was a net immigration of foreigners taking permanent residence in Switzerland of 83,200 in 2007, and of 103,400 in 2008. Net immigration fell moderately in 2009, to 79,000, and continued to fall to 51,190 in 2012.[5]

The admission of people from non-EU/EFTA countries is regulated by the Foreign Nationals Act, and is limited to skilled workers who are urgently required and are likely to integrate successfully in the long term. There are quotas established yearly: in 2012 it was 3,500 residency permits and 5,000 short-term permits.[6]

Referendums on immigration[edit]

There have been a number of ballot proposals to restrict immigration to Switzerland, starting already in the 20th century. Many of these were either rejected by popular vote, or not implemented (e.g. the people's initiative "against foreign infiltration and overpopulation of Switzerland" or the people's initiative "for a regulation of immigration").[7] Between 1993 and 2010, 18 referendums were held on topics related to the foreign population. These were approved in eleven cases, and rejected in seven.[8] These included:

  • 1 December 1996, the People's initiative "against illegal immigration" was rejected by 53.7% of voters.[9]
  • 24 November 2002, the People's initiative on asylum was rejected by 50.1% of voters. The proposal asked the federal government to apply new elements of procedural law, criminal and welfare sector asylum, to make the Switzerland less attractive as a country of asylum, while respecting the obligations of international law.[7]
  • 13 September 2004, the initiative "limitation of immigration from non-EU countries" failed because of insufficient number of signatures.[10] The initiative provided that the number of immigrants and asylum seekers in a year could not exceed the number of people emigrated the previous year.[7]
  • 1 June 2008, the people's initiative for democratic naturalisation was rejected with 63.8% of the vote. It intended to authorize municipalities to establish procedures to grant municipal citizenship.[7]
  • 28 November 2010, the people's initiative for the deportation of criminal foreigners was accepted with 52.3% of the vote. Following the approval of the proposal, foreigners convicted of certain offenses or who were paid illegally social insurance benefits or social assistance lose the right of residence and are expelled from Switzerland.[7]
  • 9 February 2014, the federal popular initiative "against mass immigration" was accepted by 50.3% of voters. The referendum aims to reduce immigration through quotas and limits the freedom of movement between Switzerland and the European Union.
  • 30 November 2014, Ecopop popular initiative "stop overpopulation", aiming at a cap on population growth of 0.2% p.a. This was defeated by 74% of votes.

Demographics[edit]

In 2009, a total number of 160,600 people immigrated to Switzerland, while a total number of 86,000 people left the country, leaving a net immigration of 74,600 people. This number consists of a net number of 79,000 foreigners immigrating to Switzerland, and 4,500 Swiss citizens emigrating from Switzerland.

Net migration for the period 2005 to 2010:

2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
36,200 39,400 75,500 98,200 74,600 64,900

Population growth in Switzerland is mostly due to immigration: in 2009, there have been 78,286 live births recorded (74% Swiss, 26% foreign nationalities), contrasting with 62,476 deaths (92% Swiss, 8% foreigners). Thus, of the population growth rate of 1.1% during 2009, about 0.2% are due to births, and 0.9% due to immigration.

As of 2009, a total number of 1,714,000 foreign nationals were registered as residing in Switzerland, accounting for 22.0% of total population. Of these, 1,680,000 had permanent residence (excluding exchange students, seasonal workers and asylum seekers). Of these, 354,000 were born in Switzerland. Another 522,000 had resided in Switzerland for more than 15 years. Swiss nationality law permits naturalization after a period of twelve years. 43,440 people were naturalized as Swiss citizens in 2009.

Permanent residents by nationality[edit]

In 2013 there were a total of 1,937,447 permanent residents (23.8% of the total population of 8.14 million) in Switzerland.[11][12] The majority (1.65 million, 85% of the total and 20.2% of the total) came from Europe. The following chart shows permanent resident numbers from selected regions and countries every 5 years.

Nation 1980 1985 1990 1995 2000 2005 2010 2013
Total 913,497 960,674 1,127,109 1,363,590 1,424,370 1,541,912 1,766,277 1,937,447
Europe 859,054 892,748 1,036,760 1,238,937 1,261,975 1,334,590 1,504,943 1,646,825
Africa 10,539 13,130 20,291 28,800 37,618 48,081 71,527 83,873
Americas 20,838 23,438 29,149 38,585 49,687 61,732 74,511 78,433
North America 12,182 12,394 13,775 16,140 18,952 21,004 25,590 26,672
Latin America and Caribbean 8,656 11,044 15,374 22,445 30,735 40,728 48,921 51,761
Asia 21,569 29,772 38,921 54,914 72,002 94,009 110,549 122,941
Oceania 1,260 1,326 1,728 1,999 2,829 3,242 3,990 4,145
Germany 87,389 82,143 84,485 91,976 109,785 158,651 263,271 292,291
Spain 98,098 109,232 116,987 102,320 84,266 72,167 64,126 75,333
France 48,002 48,948 51,729 55,407 61,688 70,901 95,643 110,103
Italy 423,008 394,812 381,493 361,892 321,795 297,917 287,130 298,875
Austria 31,986 29,417 29,123 28,454 29,191 33,069 37,013 39,494
Portugal 10,863 31,029 86,035 135,646 135,449 167,857 212,586 253,227
United Kingdom 16,050 17,482 18,269 20,030 22,309 26,425 37,273 40,898
Croatia - - - 42,582 43,876 40,709 33,507 30,471
Serbia and Montenegro - - - - 190,940 196,833 - -
Serbia - - - - - - 121,908 90,704
Montenegro - - - - - - 2,022 2,415
Kosovo - - - - - - 58,755 86,976
Bosnia and Herzegovina - - - 24,748 45,111 43,354 35,513 33,002
Macedonia - - - 39,540 56,092 60,898 60,116 62,633
Turkey 38,353 51,206 64,899 79,372 80,165 75,903 71,835 70,440

Source: [12]

Population of immigrant background[edit]

The definition of population of immigrant background includes all persons, regardless of their nationality, whose parents were born abroad. This definition includes first- and second-generation immigrants.[13] In 2011, people of non-Swiss background made up 37.2% of the total resident population of Switzerland, with large differences between cantons.[14]

Canton Non-Swiss backgr.  % Swiss backgr.  %
Canton of Geneva 219,059 62.2% 132,888 37.8%
Basel-Stadt 81,000 51.1% 77,613 48.9%
Ticino 139,719 49.0% 145,238 51.0%
Vaud 273,613 46.7% 312,067 53.3%
Canton of Zürich 493,302 42.5% 668,502 57.5%
Canton of Schaffhausen 26,607 40.9% 38,410 59.1%
Canton of Neuchâtel 57,284 40.3% 84,806 59.7%
Canton of Zug 36,249 38.2% 58,761 61.8%
Thurgau 74,965 35.7% 134,995 64.3%
Aargau 183,202 35.5% 333,349 64.5%
Canton of St. Gallen 139,999 35.0% 260,543 65.0%
Basel-Landschaft 80,101 34.4% 152,499 65.6%
Canton of Glarus 10,691 32.5% 22,191 67.5%
Canton of Solothurn 66,950 30.9% 149,649 69.1%
Valais 79,203 30.1% 184,239 69.9%
Canton of Fribourg 66,668 29.0% 162,976 71.0%
Graubünden 47,476 29.0% 116,288 71.0%
Appenzell Ausserrhoden 12,688 28.6% 31,748 71.4%
Canton of Luzern 89,304 28.3% 226,698 71.7%
Canton of Schwyz 34,569 28.2% 88,090 71.8%
Canton of Bern 204,088 24.6% 624,705 75.4%
Canton of Jura 13,767 23.8% 44,190 76.2%
Obwalden 6,510 22.0% 23,143 78.0%
Appenzell Innerrhoden 2,824 21.9% 10,055 78.1%
Nidwalden 7,332 21.0% 27,549 79.0%
Canton of Uri 4,887 16.7% 24,307 83.3%
  Switzerland 2,452,058 37.2% 4,135,498 62.8%

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i "Message relatif à l'initiative populaire "Contre l'immigration de masse"" (PDF) (in French). Berne, Switzerland: Chancellerie fédérale. pp. 289–290. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  2. ^ Neirynck, Jacques (9 September 2011). "Pour son bien-être, la Suisse doit rester une terre d'immigration". Le Temps (in French). Geneva, Switzerland. Retrieved 2014-11-18. 
  3. ^ Neli Esipova, Julie Ray, and Rajesh Srinivasan, The World’s Potential Migrants, Gallup, 2010."Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-10. Retrieved 2014-09-10.  Based on a poll of close to 350,000 adults in 148 countries answering the question Ideally, if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in this country?, if answered in the affirmative followed by To which country would you like to move? [Open-ended, one response allowed.]
  4. ^ Afonso, Alexandre (2004). "Immigration and Its Impacts in Switzerland". Mediterranean Quarterly. doi:10.1215/10474552-15-4-147. Retrieved 2 April 2016. 
  5. ^ Wanderung der ständigen ausländischen Wohnbevölkerung, Federal Statistical Office
  6. ^ "Message relatif à l'initiative populaire "Contre l'immigration de masse"" (PDF) (in French). Chancellerie fédérale. pp. 292–293. Retrieved 11 August 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "Message relatif à l'initiative populaire "Contre l'immigration de masse"" (PDF) (in French). Berne, Switzerland: Chancellerie fédérale suisse. pp. 294–295. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  8. ^ "Xénophobie". Dictionnaire historique de la Suisse DHS (in French, German, and Italian). Berne, Switzerland: DHS - HLS - DSS. Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  9. ^ "Votation no 432" (in French, German, and Italian). Berne, Switzerland: Chancellerie fédérale suisse. Retrieved 2013-08-14. 
  10. ^ "Initiative populaire fédérale 'Limitation de l'immigration en provenance d'États non membres de l'UE'" (in French, German, and Italian). Berne, Switzerland: Chancellerie fédérale suisse. Retrieved 2013-08-11. 
  11. ^ Bevölkerung - Die wichtigsten Zahlen Swiss Federal Statistical Office, accessed 6 October 2014
  12. ^ a b Ständige ausländische Wohnbevölkerung nach Staatsangehörigkeit, am Ende des Jahres Swiss Federal Statistical Office, accessed 6 October 2014
  13. ^ "Population issue de la migration". Statistique suisse. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  14. ^ "Population résidante permanente de 15 ans et plus, ventilée selon le statut migratoire et le canton". Office fédéral de la statistique. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 

External links[edit]