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EXPLAINED: How immigration is impacting Switzerland

As Switzerland’s population is set to reach the 9 million mark sooner than originally thought, debates around the issue of immigration, and its effects on the country, are intensifying.

EXPLAINED: How immigration is impacting Switzerland
The number of immigrants has risen significantly in Switzerland. Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

Since the introduction of the Free Movement of Persons agreement in 2002, allowing EU citizens nearly unlimited access to the Swiss labour market, Switzerland’s population has grown significantly thanks to strong immigration.

At the end of September 2022, the country had over 8.9 million residents. It should cross the 9 million mark in 2023 — an increase exceeding that of neighbouring countries.  

As a comparison, in 2001, a year before the agreement went into effect, Switzerland’s population was 7.25 million. 

“The situation is clear: population growth is accelerating and the milestone of 9 million inhabitants should be reached in 2023, three years ahead of forecasts,” according to public broadcaster RTS. 

“Switzerland has been in a situation of uninterrupted demographic growth for several decades, and this is explained in particular by the arrival of young migrants, who also contribute to the Swiss birth rate,” Philippe Wanner, professor at the Institute of Demography and Social Economics at the University of Geneva told The Local.

READ MORE: How foreigners are changing Switzerland

In fact, data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) indicates that in the past decade the foreign population has grown, while the overall number of people without the migration background has dropped.

As this FSO chart shows, Italian, German, Portuguese and French nationals comprise the majority of immigrants.

‘Disadvantages and costs’

“Switzerland undoubtedly benefits from immigration, but this comes with disadvantages and costs,” according to economic historian Tobias Straumann. 

So the answer to the often-asked question of how such a “growth spurt” is — and will continue to — impact Switzerland depends on who you ask.

Not surprisingly, populist circles point out that Switzerland is a small country, and such a massive influx of immigrants will “severely strain” the country’s infrastructure and resources, including the already scarce housing supply. 

“We can feel this everywhere: on the roads, in the schools, with energy consumption, and food supply,” Thomas Aeschi, a deputy from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party (SVP) said in an interview with Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 

Drivers entering Geneva from France.

Drivers entering Geneva from France. Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

To counter this trend, the SVP is planning a new anti-immigration vote, which it calls the “sustainability initiative”. Its aim is to force the Federal Council to limit immigration should the permanent population exceed 9 million people.

Positive impact on the labour market

On the other hand, many in Switzerland see growing immigration in a positive light.

“The country’s economic growth is not possible without it,” said Simon Wey, chief economist at the Swiss Employers’ Union. “We need immigration if we want to maintain our level of prosperity.” 

Michel Oris, a demographer at the University of Geneva, pointed out that almost 60 percent of recent immigrants have a university degree and “they are here to fill in the gaps in high-skilled positions”.

In terms of immigrants helping to push the population over the 9 million mark, Oris said the country “expected to reach these figures next year or the year after”.

He added: “This is part of the continuity of a history of population growth since the second world war.”

As far as immigrants straining the country’s infrastructures, as the SVP claims, “we are very far from it,” Oris said.

READ MORE: OPINION: Switzerland can be thankful to ‘foreigners’ as population nears 9 million mark

Meanwhile, according to experts, over the past 30 years, the number of hours worked per inhabitant has shown a significant decline as Swiss people have opted for more part-time jobs in favour of more holidays and free time to enjoy.

Michael Siegenthaler, market expert at the Economic Research Center (KOF) at ETH Zurich, reasons that it is essentially Switzerland’s prosperity that functions as one of the drivers of immigration. “Because we work less, we need more employees,” he told Blick.

“To put it bluntly: more part-time work leads to more immigration.”

It stands to reason then that without skilled non-Swiss workers, which are still highly in demand across the country, Swiss companies would not have seen the success over the last three decades that they have – assuming a significant amount of its skilled staff came from abroad.

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For members


8 of the best Easter events in Switzerland you won’t want to miss

From fun fares to egg hunts and Swiss traditions, here are some events you shouldn’t miss this Easter in Switzerland.

8 of the best Easter events in Switzerland you won't want to miss


If you happen to live or be visiting the Zurich area over the Easter break and are looking for something quintessentially Swiss to do, drop by the Osterchilbi held at the Klotener Stadtplatz from April 8th-16th 2023 between 1.30pm and 10pm.

Swiss chilbis, or annual fairs, are a must-see at least once in your lifetime and feature many rides, claw machines, games, and delicious local and foreign foods for you to try.

Easter egg hunt

For those with children, Baden’s Easter egg hunt is well worth a visit. The traditional egg hunt is hosted in the large park around the Museum Langmatt and includes many great hiding places for 200 children aged 8 and under to enjoy.

The hunt starts at 3pm on April 8th and will take place in all weather conditions, just remember to bring your own baskets.

Easter goodies

Get ready for Easter events in Switzerland. Photo: George Dolgikh @ / Pexels


Always fancied taking part in a Swiss tradition? Now’s your time to shine and win some money – if you’re any good that is. Zwänzgerle is an Easter tradition dating back to the 18th century that is still celebrated in the city of Zurich each year.

Every Easter Monday morning, crowds of adults and children gather in the heart of Zurich’s Old Town to play a few rounds of Zwänzgerle. The tradition dictates that children hold out a hard-boiled egg while adults throw 20-cent coins aimed at cracking the egg. Only if the coin lodges in the shell does the adult win, making Zwänzgerle a blast for children.


This unique Easter tradition takes place in in the Seebadi Niederuster at 2pm on April 10th. To get hold of a blue egg, hundreds of participants must venture into the 5-13C cold Greifensee lake and retrieve the egg some 20 metres away.

Whether you’re visiting as a pro swimmer or prefer to enjoy a snack as a bystander, this event is good fun for the whole family.

Easter at Aigle castle

Another fabulous Easter activity for children will take place at the Aigle castle, itself a Swiss heritage site of national significance.

Every Wednesday to Saturday in April between the hours of 2pm and 3.30pm and 4pm and 5.30pm visitors can delight in the castle’s mesmerising surroundings during springtime. The castle will also be organising various activities for children, such as hide-and-seek with an Easter bunny, a treasure hunt and Easter-related storytelling.

Chemin du Château, Aigle, Switzerland.

Chemin du Château, Aigle, Switzerland. Photo by Yann Lerjen on Unsplash

Easter market

If you’re looking to combine a leisurely stroll with magnificent views over Lake Zug with a shopping trip and delicious food, look no further than the town’s Easter market.

The market, which takes place on April 10th from 9am to 6pm, will feature some 60 vendors offering a wide variety of items, from jewellery and leather goods, to toys, accessories, and home-made bread. If you get hungry, you can choose from a number of food stalls serving tasty and healthy dishes for young and old.

Easter at the rural and craft museum

If your kids have had their fair share of egg-hunting this Easter, why not have them hunt for chicks instead?

Between April 7th-23rd, the Musée paysan & artisanal in La Chaux-de-Fonds will be home to a set of hens and their chicks. Children are invited to come observe the animals and learn about the many objects in the museum by locating the hidden chicks.

Easter at the Vullierens castle

On Easter Sunday, April 9th from 9.30am to 6pm, visitors can participate in the great Easter egg and treasure hunt in the gardens of the Vullierens castle. Children can follow in the footsteps of Lindt’s gold rabbit in the search for lost eggs. The good news? The game is adapted for different age brackets, with older children being given more challenging tasks involving planning and problem-solving.

The day will also include pony rides for the young, while adults can sip on delicious local wine.