How many people could theoretically live in Switzerland?

How many people could theoretically live in Switzerland?

From continual staff shortages to politicians objecting to the number of new people coming to the country to work, the question of how many people can live in Switzerland sustainably has been the subject of debate for many years. Now, a new study by real estate firm Wüest Partner has calculated how many people could live in Switzerland, in theory.

Population growth a hot-button issue in Switzerland

In the report, published in the Aargauer Zeitung, the study's authors noted that the population of Switzerland has grown significantly in recent decades. In 2000, the government estimated that the country would reach a population of 8,7 million people by 2060 at the earliest - the threshold was met in 2021, 39 years earlier than predicted.

With the country expected to hit 9 million people within the next year, the issue of how many people can live and work in Switzerland has led to significant friction in the halls of power. For example, many politicians have blamed continual housing shortages and lower wage rises on the number of new people arriving in the country every year.

Up to 11,4 million people could live in Switzerland

Now, Wüest Partner has calculated how many people could theoretically live in Switzerland, and it turns out we are some way away from reaching maximum capacity. They calculated that the country has room for an extra 2,73 million residents, bringing the population up to a total of 11,4 million people.

In terms of extra space, Canton Zurich could accommodate an extra 450.000 people according to the study. The areas with the most potential growth are Canton Vaud and Ticino, which could accommodate 35 and 58 percent more people respectively, while Obwalden has the least growth potential at just 2,6 percent.

All Swiss housing zones needs to be exploited, study notes

Wüest Partner added that these numbers are only achievable if all land currently designated for housing is built on - by using green fields, vacant lots, former industrial sites, and enlarging existing properties. They added that if more land is designated for property, the total population could be increased further. This adds to a previous study by ETH Zurich where the university found that Switzerland could accommodate 16 million people if all available space is used effectively and efficiently.

However, questions remain around whether Switzerland will actually have to worry about a continually expanding population, with the Federal Statistical Office only predicting the country to hit the 10,44 million mark in 2050. Demographic expert Hendrik Budliger told the Aargauer Zeitung that "there is a lot of talk today about the 10 million in Switzerland - but I doubt that we will ever reach it," predicting that immigration should start to decline in the coming years.

Thumb image credit: / Alexander Chaikin

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Jan studied in York and Sheffield in the UK, obtaining a master's in broadcast journalism and a bachelor's in history. He has worked as a radio DJ, TV presenter, and...

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