Religious landscape diversifies in Switzerland

Swiss churches are becoming emptier Keystone

The religious landscape has changed in Switzerland, with the Catholic and Protestant Churches emerging as the biggest losers.

This content was published on December 21, 2004

A substantial proportion of the population say they are not religious and minority religions, such as Islam, are on the rise.

About 75 per cent of the population are practising Catholics and Protestants, according to the results of the last census taken in 2000 and published by the Federal Statistics Office on Tuesday.

Thirty years earlier, 95 per cent belonged to this category.

More than 11 per cent of Swiss are not religious. This is predominantly an urban phenomenon: in cities with 100,000 and more inhabitants, a quarter fell into this category.

However, in rural cantons, such as Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Uri, Obwalden and Schwyz, less than five per cent claimed to have no religion.

The only increase in Christian believers was seen among the Evangelicals and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their numbers rose from 3.5 to 4.4 per cent.

Minority religions

The number of believers of minority religions has increased by 7.1 per cent. These include Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.

About four per cent of the population are Muslims, a slight increase on the figures from ten years ago, when just over 2.2 per cent practised Islam.

More than three-quarters of Muslims in Switzerland are foreigners, with the majority coming from former Yugoslavia and Turkey.

Almost 40 per cent of them are less than 20 years old and more than half speak a Swiss language as their first language.

The number of Jews has remained constant in Switzerland at 0.2 per cent, with the majority living in Zurich or Geneva.

They are the most educated among the diverse religious groups: nearly half have a university degree or equivalent. This is well above the Swiss level, which stands at 19.2 per cent.

The Muslims, on the other hand, have the highest jobless rate, said the Federal Statistics Office, but gave no figures.


The results of the last census taken in 2000 are:

75% of the population are practising Catholics and Protestants
11.1% have no religion
4.4% are Protestants belonging to other churches, such as Jehovah’s Witnesses
4.3% of the population are Muslims
0.2% are Jewish

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