Measuring integration in Switzerland

Swiss legislation states that integration must enable foreign nationals staying in Switzerland legally and for an extended length of stay to participate in the country's economic, social and cultural life. Integration is a slow process requiring input from both the migrants (at the individual level) and the host society, aiming to create equal opportunities for Swiss and foreign nationals within the Swiss society.

The completion of the integration process can be measured by comparing statistics relating to foreign nationals in terms of the opportunities for access to various areas of life in our society with those relating to Swiss nationals in a similar socio-economic and family situation. The acquisition of a Swiss passport, however, is not enough to guarantee equal opportunities. A Eurostat report (1998) stated that "since the end of the Second World War, the presence of migrant populations in Europe has grown and become so diversified that the criteria of nationality alone is no longer sufficient to fully analyse the phenomenon of immigration. […] the legal criteria of nationality no longer coincides with the reality of the population introduced by immigration". This is why the concept of "population with a migration background", adapted to each country's cultural and historical context, is preferred. It is tending to replace the simplistic distinction between "nationals" and "foreigners" and is no longer based solely on the principle of citizenship but takes into consideration individuals' migration experience.

As in many other countries and following the UN recommendations (page 136), the FSO has drawn up a population typology by migration status for Switzerland. This typology is based on the individuals' nationality at birth and their place of birth as well as the place of birth of both parents. In Switzerland the population with a migration background represents 36% of the permanent resident population aged 15 or over. Whether born or living in the country for a long or short time, this heterogeneous population does not have the same needs in terms of integration.

Integration of the population with a migration background

When a person acquires Swiss nationality they are granted complete political and legal rights. However, although naturalised persons born in Switzerland or abroad may have officially concluded a successful process of integration, it remains to be seen whether they receive the same treatment as other Swiss citizens. As far as foreigners are concerned, this postulate suggests that they continue to be considered as still in a process that has not quite been completed, regardless of the immigration generation to which they belong.

This means that the population whose integration we wish to measure is slightly different to the population with a migration background (as defined in the typology) and for this reason, the category of 3rd or higher generation "foreign nationals" has been included.


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



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