There is no shortage of news on the number of foreigners living in Switzerland in local Swiss media. However, many Swiss also live abroad. In addition, some countries on the list receive significantly more Swiss than Switzerland receives of their citizens, as statistics released on 25 January 2016 show.
In 2015 there were over 760,000 Swiss living beyond Switzerland’s borders, around one in nine Swiss citizens (11%). Switzerland still welcomes more people than it farewells. In 2014, there were 2.0 million foreign nationals residing in Switzerland, 2.6 times the number of Swiss who had left or 24% of residents.
Swiss expatriates were not evenly spread across the world. 87% of those abroad lived in one of 20 countries while 75% lived in one of only 10.
At number ten is Austria. Around 16,000 Swiss called Austria home. 80% of them also held Austrian nationality. They were significantly outnumbered by the roughly 40,000 Austrians living in Switzerland.
9. Israel (youngest expats)
Israel comes in at number nine. There were nearly 19,000 Swiss living in Israel. By contrast there were fewer than 2,000 Israelis based in Switzerland. 82% of those in Israel have dual nationality. They are also notably younger than most Swiss expats – nearly 46% are under 18, compared to an average of 21%.
8. Spain (oldest expats)
Spain is the seventh most popular place on the list. Almost 25,000 Swiss chose to make Spain home, far fewer than the nearly 80,000 Spaniards who lived in Switzerland. Only 57% of this group had both Swiss and Spanish nationality. Swiss based in Spain were the oldest group. 31% were over 65. Barcelona was the most popular location in Spain, followed closely by Madrid.
Despite being far away, the land-down-under rates highly with Swiss nationals. Close to 25,000 had made the move to the land of kangaroos and boomerangs. 80% are bi-nationals allowing them to move back and forth, like a boomerang, between both countries. Comparatively few Australians live in Switzerland however. In 2014 only 3,000 did.
6. United Kingdom
At number six is the UK. Almost 34,000 Swiss call Britain home. Most of them (69%) are also British citizens. At nearly 45,000 there were more Brits choosing to live in Switzerland than the other way around.
Swiss nationals love Canada. At least almost 40,000 of them did when numbers were compiled on 31 December 2015. Most (76%) of this group were also Canadian citizens. Of the Swiss in Canada 65% were registered with the consulate in the French-speaking city of Montreal, suggesting that the French language played a part in attracting Swiss to the great white north. Montreal’s low property prices could be another draw. The net flow of nationals is tilted heavily towards Canada. Fewer than 7,000 Canadians lived in Switzerland in 2014.
Close to 52,000 Helvetians lived in Italy. The overwhelming majority (84%) were dual nationals and most (64%) were registered with the Swiss consulate in Milan suggesting most live in northern Italy. The number of Swiss in Italy is dwarfed by the number of Italians in Switzerland. In 2014 there were more than 306,000 Italians residing in Switzerland mainly in the cantons of Ticino, Zurich, Vaud and Geneva where around 60% of Italian born residents lived in 2011.
3. United States
Over 10% of all Swiss expatriates lived in the US. Of the 80,000 that did most chose San Fransisco (40%) or New York (31%), which fits with industries where Switzerland has relative strength: banking (New York) and technology (San Francisco). Among these expatriates, dual nationality was the norm (74%). Migration to the US far exceeded the flow in the other direction. Only 20,000 americans lived in Switzerland in 2014, 25% of the total flowing in the other direction.
At 31 December 2015 there were close to 87,000 Swiss nationals based in Germany. For every Swiss in Germany there were close to 3.5 German citizens in Switzerland. 64% of Swiss in Germany also held German citizenship. The most popular places in Germany were the Stuttgart (33%), Francfort (27%) and Berlin (23%) regions. Stuttgart’s car industry perhaps attracts Swiss engineers or is home to German engineers who acquired Swiss nationality and then returned home. The connection with Francfort is likely banking and finance related.
1. France (greatest net recipient country)
By a large margin, sits France at the very top. In 2015, nearly 199,000 Swiss nationals were living there, far more than the 117,000 French living in Switzerland and 26% of all Swiss expats. Most (83%) were also citizens of the French republic. 53% were registered with the consulate in Lyon, the closest to Geneva, suggesting that many live in France while continuing to commute to places like Geneva and Vaud to work.
Another ten countries accounted for a further 12% of the Swiss abroad. These were Argentina (16,000), Brazil (16,000), South Africa (9,000), Thailand (9,000), Belgium (8,000), Holland (8,000), New Zealand (7,000), Sweden (6,000), Mexico (5,000) and China (5,000).
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Again some on this list welcomed more Swiss than the reverse. Fewer than 2,000 Argentinians, 2,000 South Africans and 1,000 New Zealanders called Switzerland home while 16,000 Swiss lived in Argentina, 9,000 in South Africa and 7,000 in New Zealand. On the other hand more Brazilians (20,000), Belgians (13,000), Dutch (21,000) and Swedes (8,000) chose to live in Switzerland than the other way around. Only 16,000 Swiss lived in Brazil, 8,000 in Belgium, 8,000 in Holland and 6,000 in Sweden.
A further 98,000 or 13% of Swiss abroad lived in a very long list of other places. This number is small compared to the 991,000 who had moved to Switzerland from these places. The largest nationalities in this group are Portuguese (263,000), Kosovars (100,000), Serbs (78,000), Turks (70,000), Macedonians (63,000), Bosnians (32,000) and Sri Lankans (27,000). Together nationals from these countries accounted for 64% of the 991,000 total. By contrast fewer than 11,000 Swiss chose to live in these countries. Turkey and Portugal the most popular attracted only 7,000 between them.
Figures from Swiss federal department of foreign affairs and Swiss federal statistics office.
Numbers of Swiss abroad are at 31 December 2015 (in German)
Numbers foreign residents in Switzerland are 2014 figures (in French)
Swiss abroad age breakdown and dual nationality percentages (in French)