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, naturalised 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

The Swiss Labour Force Survey (SLFS) makes it possible to identify the population with a migration background and to reconstruct the different sub-groups.

Permanent resident population aged 15 or over, by migration status, 2016
  In thousand In %
Total 7062 100.0
4393 62.2
Swiss citizens 4388 62.1
  of whom naturalised (3rd generation or higher) 18 0.2
Persons with a foreign citizenship (3rd generation or higher) 5
2602 36.8
Swiss citizens 936 13.3
  of whom naturalised 844 11.9
Persons with a foreign citizenship 1666 23.6
2104 29.8
Swiss citizens 611 8.7
  of whom naturalised 590 8.3
Persons with a foreign citizenship 1493 21.1
498 7.1
Swiss citizens 325 4.6
  of whom naturalised 254 3.6
Persons with a foreign citizenship 173 2.5
Population for whom some relevant data are unavailable 68 1.0
Sources: FSO, Swiss Labour Force Survey (SLFS)

In 2016, 37% of the permanent resident population has a migration background (2 602 000). A third of this population (936 000) has Swiss nationality. Four-fifths of the persons with a migration background belong to the 1st generation (2 104 000). The remaining fifth was born in Switzerland and is thus part of the 2nd generation (498 000). These are 2nd generation foreign nationals, Swiss-born and naturalised persons.

The population without a migration background comprises mostly Swiss-born (almost 100% of this sub-group), but also naturalised persons (0.2%) and foreign nationals from the 3rd 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 1st generation of persons with a migration background (more than 2 million in the population aged 15 and over in 2016).

This group is composed of:
•  Foreign nationals born abroad (comprising slightly more than 70% of the group: 1 493 000);
•  Swiss-born persons born abroad and whose parents were both born abroad (21 000);
•  Foreign-born naturalised persons (589 000).

The 2nd generation, i.e. persons with a migration background born in Switzerland (498 000 individuals), is composed of naturalised persons (51%), foreign nationals with at least one parent born abroad (35%) and Swiss-born persons whose parents were both born abroad (14%).

Persons younger than 15

It is not possible to determine the migration status of children under the age of 15 with the 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 nationality and 2% Swiss nationality), or born in Switzerland and of foreign nationality (18%).

Permanent resident population aged 0 to 14 by nationality and place of birth, 31.12.2016
    in %
Total 1 254 991 100.0
920 434 73.3
Foreigners 334 557 26.7
1 128 558 89.9
896 464 71.4
Foreigners 232 094 18.5
126 433 10.1
23 970 1.9
Foreigners 102 463 8.2


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



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