The number of Swiss citizens living abroad continues to rise, with their number at the end of last year passing the 620,000 mark for the first time.
Just over 60 per cent of them live in European Union countries, according to latest statistics by the foreign ministry.
Swiss embassies and representative offices abroad have reported that a total of 623,057 expatriates were registered with them, an increase of 1.7 per cent over the previous year.
The figure is slightly below the average increase in the past 15 years, which saw the Swiss expatriate community grow by 168,000 since 1990.
Seven out of ten Swiss abroad have dual nationality and almost six out of ten over the age of 18 are women.
About 380,000 of Swiss abroad live in EU countries. The biggest Swiss community in the EU lives in neighbouring France with 166,199 people, followed by Germany (70,455), Italy (45,442) Britain (26,617) and Spain (21,532).
The largest overseas Swiss community lives in the United States with 71,419 expatriates, followed by Canada (35,776) Australia (20,765), Argentina (14,784), Brazil (13,512), Israel (11,149) and South Africa (8,805).
About 20 per cent of the 475,340 Swiss abroad who are eligible to vote have registered their names with a Swiss commune. By doing so, they have the right to cast their ballot abroad during elections and votes in Switzerland.
Swiss expatriates have had the right to take part in nationwide votes only since 1992.
But the rightwing Swiss People’s Party last year announced plans to end dual nationality. The proposal was immediately rejected by the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA).
A special parliamentary group was founded last year in an attempt to give expatriates, who account for about ten per cent of the Swiss population, a voice in the federal parliament.
Senators have called on the government to draft a report on the role the Swiss community abroad plays in the economy and relations between Switzerland and other countries.
swissinfo with agencies
Swiss expatriates (2004):
About 70% of the 623,057 Swiss expatriates are dual nationals.
Some 95,000 – 20% of those eligible to vote - registered to vote last year.
Restrictions for Swiss citizens on the EU labour market have been lifted since 2002 under the terms of a bilateral agreement with Brussels.
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