30 Jahre Deutsche Einheit Mehr erfahren
Eine Frau geht an einer Weltkarte, die aus Kinderporträts besteht, am Freitag (18.06.2010) im JuniorMuseum in Köln vorbei.

3.7.2012 | Von:
Noemi Carrel

Background Information

Switzerland is a country of immigration. Despite early labor migration across national borders, this fact has for a long time not been recognized. Already at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, immigration to Switzerland gained in importance as a result of industrialization. This period was marked by a liberal migration policy. At the outbreak of the First World War, however, the political climate changed and measures were introduced to control immigration. With the strong economic upswing following the Second World War, the targeted recruitment of labor began, a phenomenon which especially marked the second half of the 20th century.

SwitzerlandSwitzerland. Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
Not only the needs of the labor market but also xenophobic opinions influenced immigration policy, which increasingly assumed restrictive features. At the same time the situation of the foreign resident population in Switzerland was improved and a gradual inclusion of immigrants in the welfare system took place.

The end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century have been marked by different developments in the area of migration policy. In order to regulate migration, a dual admission system was created which privileges immigration from European Union (EU) countries and countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA). With the increase in the number of asylum applications, the asylum sector also took on increasing importance and was marked by a policy of restrictive closure. In addition, regulations for controlling illegal migration came into effect. The topic of integration also rose to become the focal point of different legal measures and the financial support for promoting integration was considerably increased.




Capital: Bern
Official languages: German, French, Italian, Rhaeto-Romance
Area: 41,284 km²
Permanent resident population (end of 2011): 7,952,555
Population density (2007): 246.9 inhabitants per km²
Population growth (2010): 1,0%
Permanent foreign resident population (2011): 1,814,755
Economically active population (2011): 4,719,000
Percentage of foreign employees amongst gainfully employed (2011): 28,2%
Unemployment rate (2011): 3,6%
Religions (2010): Roman Catholic (38.8%), Evangelical Reformed (30.9%), Islamic communities (4.5%), undenominational (20.1%)

Historical Development of Migration

The origin of the confederation goes back many centuries but only with the constitution of 1848 was the Swiss Confederation founded. The confederation period and the early stages of the federal state were mainly marked by emigration. Since the 16th century, it was mainly military migration, in particular mercenary service in any number of European states, that offered employment opportunities. Other forms of migration were at the time still relatively insignificant.[1]

Beginning in the 18th century, settlement migration came to the forefront. Unlike military emigration, this form of emigration was not limited to Europe. In addition to countries such as Russia, Prussia and Spain, emigrants also headed for overseas destinations, in the majority of cases America. In the early 20th century, this strong overseas emigration declined sharply. It recorded its last peak after the First World War.[2]

Foreign resident population in Switzerland (1900-2009) and percentage of the total population.Foreign resident population in Switzerland (1900-2009) and percentage of the total population. Lizenz: cc by-nc-nd/2.0/de (bpb)
In the course of industrialization, especially during the rapid economic development at the end of the 19th century, the foreign population within Switzerland grew significantly. Immigration took place mainly from neighboring countries. But this came to an abrupt halt at the beginning of the First World War in 1914. In the interwar years the number of foreign women and men in Switzerland declined significantly (cf. Fig.).[3]

During the rapid economic upswing after the Second World War, the recruitment of foreign labor was massively promoted and immigration to Switzerland reached previously unknown levels. While the percentage of female and male foreigners in the entire resident population stood at 6.1% in 1950, by 1970 it had increased to 17.2%. In absolute numbers the size of the foreign population exceeded the one million mark (cf. Fig.). In the wake of the economic crisis of the 1970s, however, many foreigners left the country.

A new economic upswing starting in the mid-1980s triggered cross-border immigration once again. Despite a downswing in the economy in the 1990s, the growth in the foreign population continued. Newly arrived immigrants during this period came most often for the reason of with family reunification in Switzerland. At the same time, the number of asylum seekers clearly increased (cf. ‘Refuge and Asylum’).[4]

Current Development of Migration

Between 2000 and 2010, those immigrants who entered Switzerland for the purpose of family reunification or employment continued to predominate. But family reunification no longer attained the peak values of the 1990s. At the same time, economically induced migration has grown sharply since 2002 in connection with the gradual introduction of freedom of movement for citizens from EU and EFTA countries. Since 2006, taking up gainful employment has been the most frequent reason for immigration. With 78,537 entries in 2008 this reached a peak. Compared with this, other forms of immigration[5] were clearly lower. In 2010 total immigration came to 224,444 foreigners, including 15,105 asylum seekers. Added to this was an influx of 22,283 Swiss citizens from abroad.[6]

Although very little statistical data on emigration are collected in Switzerland, the scope of emigration is not insignificant. In 2010 96,839 instances of emigration were recorded. This figure also includes 26,311 Swiss citizens who left their home country that year. Not taken into account, on the other hand, are the departures from Switzerland of individuals belonging to the temporary foreign population (71,675) nor those of individuals from the asylum sector (13,557).[7] Thus, taken together the statistics recorded the emigration of 182,071 individuals in 2010.[8]


Hoffmann-Nowotny (1985), Wyler (1923).
Ritzmann (2011).
Arlettaz/Burkart (1990), Arlettaz (1985), Bundesamt für Statistik BFS (1992), Hoffmann-Nowotny (1985), Wyler (1923).
Bundesamt für Statistik (1992), Hoffmann-Nowotny (1985), Piguet (2006).
Official statistics include the following categories with regard to reasons for immigration: Employment, family reunification, education, pensioners, recognized refugees, and cases of hardship (cf. Swiss Federal Statistical Office: The Statistical Encyclopedia).
Swiss Federal Statistical Office: The Statistical Encyclopedia.
Official statistics distinguish between the permanent and the temporary resident population as well as the asylum sector. The permanent resident population comprises Swiss citizens, long-stay residents (permanent residence permit, Permit C/settlement permit), resident foreign nationals (right to reside in Switzerland for at least one year, Permit B/residence permit and Permit Ci/residence permit with gainful employment), and short-term residents (right to stay in Switzerland for at least 12 months, Permit L/short-term residence permit). Since 2010, the definition of the permanent resident population also includes persons in the asylum process with a total period of residence of at least 12 months. Not included in the permanent resident population are those persons who possess a short-term residence permit that is valid for less than 12 months (Permit L/short-term residence permit). The ‘seasonal resident status’ (Saisonnierstatut) was abolished in 1991 for persons from non-EC countries and in 2002 for EU and EFTA citizens. The asylum sector comprises asylum seekers (Permit N) and provisionally admitted foreigners (Permit F) (cf. www.bfm.admin.ch; www.bfs.admin.ch).
Carrel (2011), Swiss Federal Statistical Office: The Statistical Encyclopedia.


Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl: Aktuelle Themen

Ein Kurzdossier legt komplexe Zusammenhänge aus den Bereichen Zuwanderung, Flucht und Asyl sowie Integration auf einfache und klare Art und Weise dar. Es bietet einen fundierten Einstieg in eine bestimmte Thematik, in dem es den Hintergrund näher beleuchtet und verschiedene Standpunkte wissenschaftlich und kritisch abwägt. Darüber hinaus enthält es Hinweise auf weiterführende Literatur und Internet-Verweise. Dies eröffnet die Möglichkeit, sich eingehender mit der Thematik zu befassen. Unsere Kurzdossiers erscheinen bis zu 6-mal jährlich.

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