Following similar approaches in many other countries, the FSO has drawn up a typology of the population by migration status for Switzerland on the basis of UN international recommendations. A person's migration status is defined by combining the following variables: the country of birth, the nationality (current and at birth) of the reference person, as well as the variables country of birth of both parents.
|Place of birth
||Nationality||Place of birth of the parents|
|2 in Switzerland||
1 in Switzerland
and 1 abroad
|Switzerland||Swiss at birth||0
|Swiss by naturalization||0
|Abroad||Swiss at birth||0
|Swiss by naturalization||I||I||I|
II Population with a migration background, 2nd generation
0 Population without a migration background
The "population with a migration background" as defined by the FSO includes all foreign nationals and 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
|In thousand||In %|
|Population without a migration background||4 347||59.3|
|Swiss citizens||4 340||59.3|
|of whom naturalised (3rd generation or higher)||20||0.3|
|Persons with a foreign citizenship (3rd generation or higher)||6||0.1|
|Population with a migration background||2 890||39.5|
|of whom naturalised||954||13.0|
|Persons with a foreign citizenship||1 799||24.6|
|1st generation||2 275||31.1|
|of whom naturalised||636
|Persons with a foreign citizenship||1 619||22.1|
|of whom naturalised||318||4.4|
|Persons with a foreign citizenship||180||2.5|
|Population for whom some relevant data are unavailable||89||1.2|
In 2021, 39% of the permanent resident population has a migration background (2,890,000). More than a third of this population (1,090,000) has Swiss nationality. Almost four-fifths of the persons with a migration background belong to the first generation (2,276,000). The remaining fifth was born in Switzerland and is thus part of the second generation (615,000).
The population without a migration background comprises mostly Swiss-born (99.4%), but also naturalized persons (0.5%) 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 (more than 2.2 million in the population aged 15 and over).
This group is composed of:
- foreign nationals born abroad (1,619,000);
- foreign-born naturalized persons (636,000);
- Swiss-born persons born abroad and whose parents were both born abroad (21,000).
The second generation, i.e. persons with a migration background born in Switzerland (615,000 individuals), is composed of:
- naturalized persons (318,000);
- foreign nationals with at least one parent born abroad (180,000);
- Swiss-born persons whose parents were both born abroad (116,000).
Since 2012, the share of the permanent resident population aged 15 and over with a migration background increased (+4.3 percentage points), whereas that of the population without a migration background experienced a decrease (-5.4 percentage points).
An analysis of the generation status shows that the first generation and the second generation have increased since 2012 (+4.3 and +1.1 percentage points). The analysis by nationality reveals that more than 80% of the growth in the number of persons with a migration background is attributable to citizens of EU27 and EFTA member states and to Swiss nationals (+424,000). The rise was less distinct for nationals of other European countries and from elsewhere in the world (+89,000).
The most represented nationality among the population with a migration background is the Swiss nationality, corresponding to over a third of this population. The proportion of women with Swiss nationality is greater than that of men (42% and 34% respectively). After the Swiss nationality, the most represented nationality among men is Italian. For women, it is the German nationality. The reverse holds true for the third position, with German nationality for men and Italian nationality for women. Portuguese nationality holds the fourth place for both sexes in the population with a migration background, followed by French nationality.
Among the population with a migration background from the first generation, slightly less than half are citizens of EU27 and EFTA member states, almost 30% are Swiss, 13% are citizens of other European countries and 11% are from elsewhere in the world. In the second generation, more than 71% have Swiss nationality and 20% are from a EU27 or EFTA member state.
The age pyramid of the population with a migration background differs from that of the population without a migration background. With a mean age of 45, the population with a migration background is younger than the population without a migration background (mean age of almost 50). People aged 25-50 are overrepresented among the population with a migration background compared to the population without a migration background.
The old age dependency ratio, i.e. the ratio between persons aged 65 or over and the working-age population between 20 and 64, is more than twice as high (41) in the population without a migration background than in the population with a migration background (16).
Overall, regardless of migration status, the population is equally divided with regard to sex, with a small majority of women (51%) in comparison with men (49%). However, the second generation tends to have more men (52%) than women (48%).
The population by migration status is not spread evenly among the cantons. At national level, 39% of the Swiss permanent resident population aged 15 or over has a migration background. This percentage is higher than 60% in the canton of Geneva. The rates are also particularly high in the cantons of Zurich, Zug, Basel-Stadt, Ticino, Vaud, and Neuchâtel (40% and above). In contrast, the percentage of the population with a migration background is less than 20% in the canton of Uri (this result should, however, be interpreted with caution as the extrapolations are based on fewer than 50 observations).
The proportions of people from the first and second generation differ between cantons. At the national level, the first generation represents 31% of the permanent resident population aged 15 and over; the second generation 8%. The ratio is, therefore, around 4:1. In certain cantons such as Uri, the ratio shows that the second generation is proportionally under-represented (ratio higher than 6:1). In contrast, in comparison with the national average, the second generation is over-represented in relation to the first generation in the cantons of Solothurn und Thurgau.
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.
More than 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%).
|Persons born in Switzerland||1 191
|Persons born abroad||129||9.8|
Children with a foreign nationality (more than 25% of the population aged under 15) are mainly Portuguese, German and Italian (12%, 12% and 11%, respectively). Children of Kosovan, French and North Macedonian nationality are also strongly represented among foreign nationals aged 0 to 14.
Depending on their place of birth, the age pyramid for children under 15 has a different shape: it is rectangular for those born in Switzerland and an inverse pyramid for those born abroad. The age pyramid of children born outside Switzerland is narrow at its base, as they are children who immigrated to Switzerland during their early childhood. There are no large differences between girl and boy populations by age and country of birth.
Data cumulated from the years 2017 to 2019 show that half of children aged 0 to 14 were living in a household with no migration background. A third of them were living in a household with a migration background. Almost one fifth of them lived in a household with a mixed migration/non-migration background.
The migration status of the household is defined by combining the nationality and place of birth of the household members. For more information on defining the migratory status of the household, see the 'Definitions' tab below.
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.
ContactFederal Statistical Office Section Demography and Migration
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