At the end of 2014 there were 287,100 foreign residents crossing the borders of Switzerland to work. This army of day-tripping workers, called frontaliers in French, would fill around 5,000 buses and exceeds the combined populations of the Cantons of Neuchatel and Jura.
The cantons with the highest number of cross-border workers were those with urban centres close to national borders. Leading the pack were Italian-speaking Ticino with 61,600 (37% of the active resident population), Basel City with 35,200 (36% of the active resident population), and French-speaking Geneva with 71,400 (33% of the active resident population) – the combined Lake Geneva region received close to 100,000 workers. This left the rest of the country with cross-border workers equivalent to only 3.0% of the active resident population, explaining the varying regional intensity of political debate on the subject.
2014 saw an increase of 3.1% on 2013, a slight decline on the previous year’s growth rate of 3.8%.
Cross-border workers were on average less qualified than resident Swiss employees. 19% worked as managers or in intellectual pursuits, 27% in administrative or middle management roles while the remaining 54% worked in the manual, service and primary sectors.
The definition of cross-border worker is based on residence and not nationality. Many Swiss citizens, often escaping high Swiss property prices, live across the border in Italy, Germany and France, particularly near Geneva. In 2013 there were 50,700 Swiss living in Italy, 191,400 in France and 82,600 in Germany.