About one in four residents of Switzerland is an immigrant, and the country welcomes them – as long as they are willing to integrate into Swiss culture. Perhaps one measure of integration success is the rising number of internationally mixed marriages.
In 2016, there were 15,100 mixed marriages in Switzerland, 36% of all marriages.
Over the last 20 years, marriages each year in Switzerland between a Swiss citizen and a foreigner have risen by around 4,000, according to a recent report from the Swiss Federal Statistical Office. In contrast, over the same period, marriages between two Swiss nationals have dropped by around 5,000 from 25,000 to 20,000 a year.
Across the nation around 10% of families are mixed and nearly 5% of Swiss born in Switzerland are married to a foreign national.
Unsurprisingly, Swiss citizens born abroad were more than twice as likely to choose a foreign spouse as those born in Switzerland – 58% vs. 23%.
For foreigners living in Switzerland, place of birth made little difference to their chance of marrying someone Swiss. 56% of those born in Switzerland married a Swiss, compared to 53% of those born beyond Switzerland’s borders. This phenomenon is not surprising notes the report in decidedly unromantic terms, “given that Swiss are more numerous in the (local) marriage market.”
In addition, the report explains that younger couples were more likely to embark on a mixed marriage: 52% among 20 – 24 year-olds vs. 30% for 30 – 34 year-olds.
What causes all these internationally mixed marriages? Well, love of course! And maybe something else, especially for immigrants who have fallen in love with Switzerland. Foreigners married to Swiss citizens benefit from expedited naturalization, and the report says that, between 2011 and 2016, 90% of them took advantage of this to become Swiss.
The highest rates of Swiss marrying Swiss were in Nidwalden and the two Appenzells. The highest rates of mixed marriages were in Geneva, Vaud and Basel-City.
Who do the Swiss favour when they chose a foreign partner? According to 2011 – 2016 data, Swiss men (who marry foreigners more often than Swiss women do), go for Germans, then Italians, Kosovars, French and Serbs. But for Swiss women, Italians top the list, followed by Germans, Kosovars, French and Turks. These figures will undoubtedly include some naturalized foreigners marrying foreigners, however the report does not provide any information on this.
By Bill Harby