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Cross-border workers

More French commuters head for Switzerland

Almost half of all French cross-border workers commute to Switzerland every day. Of the 160,000 who make the trip, 88,000 have their offices in the city of Geneva. Basel is also popular.

The number of French residents who work in neighbouring countries has increased by 42% in 12 years to reach 353,000 in 2011, according to a study by French statistics office INSEE published on Friday.

France has borders with eight countries (Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Spain and Andorra), but the most cross-border movement is seen in the north-east.

The number coming to Switzerland has steadily increased from 100,000 in 1999 to 128,000 in 2006 and 160,000 in 2011.

Behind Switzerland, Luxembourg was the second-most popular destination, attracting 69,000 French workers, followed by Germany (50,000), Belgium (39,000) and Monaco (26,000). The figures for the other countries were very small.

Between 1999 and 2011, Germany dropped one place, with 13,000 fewer French commuting there. On the other hand, the number of French heading to work in Luxembourg and Belgium exploded by 81% and 77% respectively.


Of those French residents crossing the border to work abroad, tens of thousands are foreign: 15,000 Germans live in France but commute “home” to work (although, confusingly, 1,700 Germans living in France work in Switzerland), as do 11,000 Swiss and 8,000 Belgians.

The INSEE study found that only 30,000 people commute into France, with around half coming from Belgium. The figure for Swiss crossing into France to work was reported as “very much reduced”. Italy was the only country where more people cross into France to work than vice versa.

Cross-border workers are currently in the news in Switzerland as part of the government’s efforts to implement an initiative, approved by a small majority of Swiss voters in February 2014, to curb immigration and introduce quotas for EU citizens.

These quotas would also apply to cross-border workers, but the European Union, with whom non-EU member Switzerland has various bilateral agreements, says this violates the free movement of people, a key element of these agreements.

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