Switzerland’s foreign population rose 1.5% in just a year though the growth in net immigration slowed considerably during the same time frame, the government reported on Monday.
The latest figures for Swiss immigration – a perennial hot-button political topic – show 2,042,132 foreigners among the Swiss population, which stood at 8,431,702 as of the end of March.
Foreigners now account for 24.2% of the population, the State Secretariat for Migrationexternal link reported. And the latest figure for the first half of this year represents a 1.5% increase over the 2,011,905 foreigners as of June 2016.
Immigration has long been a controversial topic in Switzerland, where the rightwing Swiss People’s Party narrowly succeeded in persuading voters to back a popular initiative in 2014 that limits arrivals from the European Union.
The government did not support the initiative but was put in the unenviable position of having to figure out how to implement the initiative despite bilateral accords guaranteeing free movement for EU citizens in exchange for enhanced Swiss access to the EU single market.
Parliament last year adopted a new law that gives local people the first opportunity at job openings. Meanwhile, the People's Party has been seeking another initiative to try to halt the free movement of EU workers.
The populist efforts to slow immigration already seem to be paying off. In the first half of 2017, overall net immigration to Switzerland was down nearly 12 percent to 25,526, with net immigration from the EU down by more than a fifth.
There was a net migration of 25,526 people to Switzerland during the first half of this year. That is down by 11.9% from the net migration of 28,990 people to Switzerland during January-to-June 2016.
The slowdown was more pronounced among people arriving from the European Union and other members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), the small club of nations –Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – that has access to the European single market without being part of the EU.
Net migration from the EU and EFTA to Switzerland in the first half of this year was 15,033 people, or 21.5% less than the 19,140 people during the comparable time last year.
It’s no surprise that most foreigners living in landlocked Switzerland come from another European country. But not all the biggest contributors to the Swiss population share a border.
Among the foreigners living in Switzerland, Italians (15.6%), Germans (14.9%) and Portuguese (13.2%) are by far the largest nationalities represented, the reportexternal link shows.
Then come the French (6.3%), Kosovars (5.5%) and Spaniards (4.1%), followed by Turks (3.3%), Macedonians (3.2%), Serbs (3.1%) and Austrians (2.1%). Other nationalities account for the rest ( 28.6%).
swissinfo.ch and agencies/jmh