Swiss Abroad numbers on the rise

Swiss Abroad in 2021 - an increase on 2020 © Keystone / Christian Beutler

This content was published on April 8, 2022 - 09:44

The number of Swiss citizens abroad increased by 1.5% in 2021, according to data released by the Federal Statistical Office on ThursdayExternal link. The total registered with a Swiss diplomatic representation abroad now stands at 788,000.

Compared with 2020, the numbers increased in Europe (+2.2%), Asia (+0.7%), Oceania (+0.6%), and in the Americas (+0.2%), but they fell in Africa (-0.6%).

For more than 30 years, net migration of Swiss citizens has been negative – meaning that more people emigrated than immigrated. But in pandemic-hit 2020, emigration fell, while arrivals in Switzerland rose, reducing net migration to just -279 persons

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More emigrants in 2021

In 2021, when the pandemic situation eased, 28,700 people left Switzerland and 22,300 arrived. Net migration was -6,431 people, which is still below pre-pandemic levels.

“If the increase had been the same as in previous years, there would already be more than 800,000 Swiss abroad, or more than one in ten [of the population],” said Ariane Rustichelli, director of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA).

“It is an advantage for our small country to have so many Swiss abroad, because these people build bridges between cultures. They are able to explain what is really happening in Switzerland, especially political decisions,” Rustichelli added.

Multinational Swiss Abroad

The Swiss diaspora was also very multicultural – three-quarters (or 590,500 people) had at least one other nationality as well, the 2021 statistics show.

The number of multi-passport holders has in general increased by 5.3% since 2017. The American continent has the highest percentage of Swiss citizens with more than one nationality (80%). The record-breakers are in South America, particularly in Chile and Argentina, where more than 90% of Swiss citizens hold one or more citizenships. 

Kai Reusser /

Europe tops the list of destinations

The majority of Swiss citizens abroad lived in Europe (501,600 people or 64%). The largest five communities were, as has been the case for many years, in France (203,900 people), Germany (96,600 people), Italy (50,500 people), the United Kingdom (38,900 people) and Spain (25,100 people). The greatest increase on 2020 was recorded in the UK (+3.0%).

There were 286,300 Swiss citizens on other continents. The largest communities outside Europe were in the United States (81,800 people), Canada (40,800 people), Australia (25,800 people) and Israel (22,100 people).

Seniors on the move

Portugal may only have a small number of Swiss citizens, but the growth recorded in 2021 was one of the highest among European countries (+14.1%) - rising from 4,700 people in 2020 to almost 5,400 in 2021. The country is also popular among retirees from other European countries, due to its generous tax benefits.

As in 2020, seniors made up the largest group moving abroad, with an increase of 2.7% among the 65-plus age group in 2021.

Overall, 21.1% of Swiss people living abroad were under 18 years of age, 56.4% were aged 18 to 64 and 22.5% were 65 years or older. Slightly more women (54.1%) than women left Switzerland for pastures new in 2021.

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