Population by migration status

In international discussions on immigration and integration, the term population with a migration background is used with growing frequency. This concept is increasingly used to replace the simple distinction between citizens (or nationals) and foreign citizens (or non-nationals), which does not take into account whether individuals are themselves immigrants or have an indirect connection to migration through their parents' migration experiences.

The "population with a migration background" as defined by the FSO includes all foreign nationals, naturalized Swiss citizens, except for those born in Switzerland and whose parents were both born in Switzerland, as well as Swiss citizens at birth whose parents were both born abroad.

Key figures on persons aged 15 and over

Permanent resident population aged 15 or over, by migration status, 2019
  In thousand In %
Total 7 214 100.0
4 352 60.3
Swiss citizens 4 346 60.3
  of whom naturalised (3rd generation or higher) 16
0.2
Persons with a foreign citizenship (3rd generation or higher) 6
0.1
2 722 37.7
Swiss citizens 992 13.7
  of whom naturalised 880 12.2
Persons with a foreign citizenship 1 730 24.0
2 202 30.5
Swiss citizens 645 8.9
  of whom naturalised 619
8.6
Persons with a foreign citizenship 1 557 21.6
520 7.2
Swiss citizens 347 4.8
  of whom naturalised 261 3.6
Persons with a foreign citizenship 173 2.4
Population for whom some relevant data are unavailable 140 1.9
Sources: FSO, Swiss Labour Force Survey (SLFS)

In 2019, about 38% of the permanent resident population has a migration background (2,722,000). More than a third of this population (992,000) has Swiss nationality. Four-fifths of the persons with a migration background belong to the first generation (2,202,000). The remaining fifth was born in Switzerland and is thus part of the second generation (520,000).

The population without a migration background comprises mostly Swiss-born (99.5%), but also naturalized persons (0.4%) and foreign nationals from the third or a higher generation (0.1%).

With the exception of Swiss-born persons who have at least one parent born in Switzerland, all persons born abroad are considered as belonging to the first generation of persons with a migration background (about 2.2 million in the population aged 15 and over in 2019).

This group is composed of:

  • foreign nationals born abroad (comprising slightly more than 70% of the group: 1,557,000);
  • Swiss-born persons born abroad and whose parents were both born abroad (26,000);
  • foreign-born naturalized persons (619,000).

The second generation, i.e. persons with a migration background born in Switzerland (520,000 individuals), is composed of naturalized persons (50%), foreign nationals with at least one parent born abroad (33%) and Swiss-born persons whose parents were both born abroad (17%).

Persons younger than 15

It is not possible to determine the migration status of children under the age of 15 with FSO data. However, information can be obtained regarding their place of birth and nationality.

Almost three-quarters of the population aged under 15 is Swiss and was born in Switzerland. The remaining quarter was either born abroad (10%: 8% foreign nationals and 2% Swiss nationals), or born in Switzerland and of foreign nationality (19%).

Permanent resident population aged 0 to 14 by nationality and place of birth, 31.12.2019
  In Tousand
In %
Total 1 295 100.0
Swiss
947   73.1
Foreigners 348   26.9
1 166   90.0
Swiss
923   71.2
Foreigners 243
18.8
129   10.0
Swiss
25   1.9
Foreigners 105   8.1
Source: FSO, Population and Households Statistics (STATPOP)

Definitions

A household’s migration status is established as follows:

The household has no migration background if neither the father nor mother alone, nor both members of a couple (with or without child(ren)) nor any person in a non-family household or other type of household is not born abroad or does not have a foreign nationality. The household has a migration background if the father or mother, or both members of a couple (with or without child(ren)) or all people in a non-family household or other type of household are born abroad or have a foreign nationality. The household has a mixed migration background if one of the two members of a couple (with or without child(ren)) or at least one of the persons in a non-family household or other type of household is born abroad or has a foreign nationality and the other(s) does/do not.

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Federal Statistical Office Section Demography and Migration
Espace de l'Europe 10
CH-2010 Neuchâtel
Switzerland

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