Cantons see population boom and bust

Lake Geneva is a population growth area Reuters

The Swiss population will grow by 12.5 per cent by 2035, statistics show, but in some cantons, such as Vaud, the growth will be more than 20 per cent.

This content was published on March 30, 2011 - 13:28

A rising population will put a strain on housing in particular, Vaud officials have said. At the other end of the scale, some cantons, such as Uri, seem set for very slight growth.

The population in Switzerland should rise to 8.8 million in the next 25 years, up from the present 7.8 million, according to Federal Statistics Office projections released on Tuesday.

The main drivers, the statistics office said, will be international migration and a high enough birth rate to offset the higher rate of deaths.

The Lake Geneva region – canton Vaud is top at 23. 8 per cent – and the Zurich metropolitan area – more than 15 per cent – lead the field.

But cantons Uri, Jura and Neuchâtel will only grow by between two and three per cent. Uri’s 1.9 per cent growth, the lowest, is due to a negative net migration between cantons and its ageing population, says Raymond Kohli of the statistics office.

“The difference between the births and the deaths will be negative,” he told

Overall, the percentage of people over 65 in Switzerland is expected to increase from around 17 per cent in 2010 to around 26 per cent by 2035, as so-called babyboomers age.

Vaud’s challenges


The statistics office’s figures came as Vaud published its own statistics, showing a similar population boom by 2030.

“The statistics office results show a stronger short-term growth than our results. The explanation is that there will be an end to quotas on new European Union countries this year so it will be easier to come to Switzerland… We think this effect will exist but will be less,” canton Vaud demographer Jacques Menthonnex told

“In the longer term the statistics office thinks the Vaud population will continue to grow but more slowly, which tallies with the hypothesis for Switzerland as whole. We think this is rather cautious. But by 2030 we both expect the same size of growth.”

Concretely, Vaud expects to have 150,000 more residents by 2030.

Politicians have hailed the canton’s financial success and attractiveness as an employer and provider of education – it is home, for example, to multinational Nestlé and the Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne.

They also welcomed the fact that immigrants, who make up around 30 per cent of the population, have made it a “younger” canton. But they are also aware of the challenges ahead.


The lack of housing in particular, already a problem, is likely to become more acute. “New building construction is being hindered by a lack of building ground, not through lack of investors,” Jean-Claude Mermoud, a member of the cantonal government, told a news conference on Tuesday.

Cantonal authorities have announced that they want to introduce “extraordinary measures” that would force landowners to sell land that has been unused for several years. More tax would be imposed on such lands and the cantonal government would encourage the building of more affordable housing.

The Vaud housing association has already denounced the moves as a “state control of the land”.

Uri’s optimism

It would seem to be another story in the central canton of Uri – the home of national hero William Tell – which has a population of around 35,000.

But spokesman Adrian Zurfluh said the government statistics showing just 1.9 per cent population growth by 2035 had not taken into account the building of the tourism resort of Andermatt by Egyptian billionaire Samih Sawiris.

A separate study commissioned by the canton had shown a rather different picture for 2020.

“Work has started in Andermatt, with the first hotels and job creation expected in 2013. We have calculated that the population would increase by 3,500 people in 2012-2020, which would be around ten per cent,” Zurfluh told

“This is an individual project for canton Uri, a very big one, and we understand that the government can’t take into account such individual projects and that there is a slight blurring here.”

Switzerland’s largest property development project will see Andermatt transformed into a luxury resort with six hotels, 490 apartments, 25 villas and a range of new amenities.

Zurfluh added that Uri aimed to encourage people to live and work there – it has also just lowered its flat rate tax to remain competitive with other cantons. Overall, the canton was more optimistic than the federal statistics, he said.

Cantons in detail

The federal statistics office figures also revealed the following:

The 15-20 per cent growth in cantons such as Aargau, Thurgau and Fribourg will most mostly arise from people coming from other cantons.

Cantons such as Fribourg, Nidwalden, Valais, Schwyz and Zug, which have seen the highest population growth in the past 25 years of up to 45 per cent, will witness a slowdown because of the ageing population.

In Obwalden, Fribourg, Nidwalden, Aargau, Schwyz  and Thurgau the number of over 65s is expected to double by 2035.

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Vaud and Uri

Canton Vaud

On the shores of Lake Geneva, tucked between the mountains of the Jura and the Alps, the canton of Vaud is the largest French-speaking region Switzerland. 

Its capital is Lausanne, the fifth largest Swiss city with 122,000 inhabitants.

It currently has more than 680,000 inhabitants (the third largest canton). Around 30% of the population is foreign.

(Source: Canton Vaud)

Canton Uri

The canton of Uri nestles in the midst of mountains at the southern end of Lake Lucerne. With just 35,000 inhabitants Uri is one of the least populated small cantons in Switzerland but in terms of surface area at 1,057.3 square kilometres it is the eleventh largest canton in Switzerland.

Its capital is Altdorf.

It has 35,335 inhabitants (2009), with 9.4 per cent foreigners,

(Source: Canton Uri,

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