Emigration and immigration

Switzerland's population is shaped by emigration and immigration. More and more Swiss nationals are choosing to live abroad. At the same time, a quarter of the total population are foreigners. 

Infographic showing facts and figures on the Swiss abroad.

A growing proportion of Swiss citizens live abroad – currently more than one in ten. Between the 15th and 18th centuries, people left Switzerland to work as mercenaries or to escape poverty and sectarian conflicts. Today, those leaving include employees, students, researchers and artists who tend to leave Switzerland only temporarily in order to study or to broaden their professional experience. Or pensioners who choose to spend their retirement abroad.

France and Germany the most popular destinations

Two thirds of Swiss nationals living abroad choose to do so in another European country – most of them in France and Germany. Outside Europe, most Swiss people are drawn to the United States, Canada and Australia.

At the same time, Switzerland has a high proportion of foreigners – a full quarter of the population do not have a Swiss passport. However, more than one fifth of the foreign resident population was born or grew up in Switzerland. The high proportion of foreigners reinforces the country's already multicultural character.

Italians the largest foreign community

With just over 300,000 people, Italians are the largest foreign community in Switzerland, followed by Germans, Portuguese and French. To date, more than three quarters of immigrants have come from other European countries. However, the proportion of people with non-European passports is increasing year on year.

From a regional perspective, the proportion of foreigners varies greatly, depending on the degree of urbanisation, economic structure and proximity to the border. For example, the proportion of foreigners in the canton of Uri is 11%, while in the canton of Geneva it is 40%.