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, 2017
  In thousand In %
Total 7 116 100.0
4 402 61.9
Swiss citizens 4 396 61.8
  of whom naturalised (3rd generation or higher) 20
Persons with a foreign citizenship (3rd generation or higher) 6
2 647 37.2
Swiss citizens 958 13.5
  of whom naturalised 863 12.1
Persons with a foreign citizenship 1 689 23.7
2 134 30.0
Swiss citizens 612 8.6
  of whom naturalised 591 8.3
Persons with a foreign citizenship 1 522 21.4
513 7.2
Swiss citizens 347 4.9
  of whom naturalised 272 3.8
Persons with a foreign citizenship 166 2.3
Population for whom some relevant data are unavailable 67 0.9
Sources: FSO, Swiss Labour Force Survey (SLFS)

In 2017, 37.2% of the permanent resident population has a migration background (2,647,000). More than a third of this population (958,000) has Swiss nationality. Four-fifths of the persons with a migration background belong to the 1st generation (2,134,000). The remaining fifth was born in Switzerland and is thus part of the 2nd generation (513,000). 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 (0.5%) 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 2.1 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: 1,522,000);
  • Swiss-born persons born abroad and whose parents were both born abroad (21,000);
  • foreign-born naturalised persons (591,000).

The 2nd generation, i.e. persons with a migration background born in Switzerland (513,000 individuals), is composed of naturalised persons (53%), foreign nationals with at least one parent born abroad (32%) and Swiss-born persons whose parents were both born abroad (15%).

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, 31.12.2017
    in %
Total 1 269 055 100.0
929 047 73.2
Foreigners 340 008 26.8
1 141 620 90.0
905 119 71.3
Foreigners 236 501
127 435 10.0
23 928 1.9
Foreigners 103 507 8.2


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



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