Those with a migration background in Switzerland are on average financially worse off than those without, according to data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). And those with a migration background pay on average 10% more per square metre of living space than the rest of the population.
In Switzerland, around 20% of those with a migration background have trouble making ends meet, compared to 7% of the rest of the population.
On average, people without a migration background paid CHF 17.20 per square metre of living space per month in 2019, CHF 1.60 more than those long established in Switzerland. This comes out at CHF 1,720 (US$ 1,875) per month for a 100 m2 apartment.
In addition to paying more per square metre, newcomers tended to live in noisier, smaller places. Immigrants occupied an average of 32 square metres per person, while Swiss residents occupied an average of 45 square metres, around 40% more.
However, migration status was not the only factor associated with observed financial differences. Other variables such as age and level of education also correlated with financial challenges.
The percentage of foreigners facing financial difficulty dropped from an average of 20% to 11% among those with tertiary education. Disadvantage rose as the level of education fell, while the relative differences based on migration background remained roughly the same. 30% of foreigners with only compulsory schooling faced financial difficulties compared to 15% of the rest of the population. The same rates for those with a secondary education were 18% and 9%. For those with a tertiary education the figures were 11% and 4%, suggesting that a tertiary education helps more if you’re born and bred in Switzerland.
These differences are not particularly surprising. Switzerland is an expensive place with a challenging housing market. Newcomers, especially those who arrive with little wealth, few social connections and uncertain job prospects, are likely to be at a disadvantage compared to families long established in Switzerland. In addition, those arriving with limited education are likely to face a significant head wind. A young adult migrant with limited schooling and knowledge of the local language may never catch up educationally with someone that grew up with the language and has been through the Swiss education system since they were a toddler.
In addition, FSO statisticians point out high level differences in rent, do not reveal regional disparities, differences between types of neighbourhood and dwellings and the length of the tenancy, which are all important factors behind rental prices.
Perceptions among migrants around the reasons behind their different experiences appear to partly reflect these realities. On average, those with a migration background report having greater belief in Switzerland’s institutions than those with Swiss roots, which may reflect a belief in the system to provide them with similar opportunities.