Meet the Swiss town where a majority of residents are not Swiss

Meet the Swiss town where a majority of residents are not Swiss

With a net migration rate of around 80.000 people a year, Switzerland’s population has risen significantly in the past two decades, from 7,2 million in 2002 to over nine million as of September 2023. Now, a report from the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) has revealed which communities are most popular with expats. In some areas, Swiss citizens are now in the minority.

Internationals make up the majority in Valais town

According to the report, which used the latest data from the Federal Statistical Office, the small town of Täsch, Canton Valais has seen the most dramatic population change in the last 20 years. In 2002, 28,5 percent of locals held residence permits, as of 2022, 60,5 percent of the population are non-Swiss. The majority of Täsch residents are Portuguese - hence why residents often jokingly call the town Portotäsch.  

The NZZ explained that areas of the mountains have become hotspots for international residents, largely thanks to Swiss ski resorts. In the case of Täsch, most of the locals have jobs in the neighbouring town of Zermatt, but cannot afford the high cost of rent in the resort itself.

Other major resorts have had a similar effect, especially in the resort of Andermatt. For instance, in the neighbouring districts of Realp, Hospental, Wassen and Göschenen, and Andermatt itself, non-Swiss people made up between 1,2 to 6 percent of the population in 2002. In 2022, rates varied from 18 to 27 percent.

French-speaking Switzerland sees biggest increase in expats

Looking at the rest of the country, the NZZ noted that French-speaking Switzerland has seen the largest growth in expats over the past 20 years. This phenomenon is shown in microcosm in Canton Fribourg - the canton that has seen the highest percentage population growth in the last two decades.

In the Fribourg town of Bulle, 42 percent of the population were non-Swiss in 2022, up from 26 percent in 2002. The NZZ explained that Fribourg benefits from good public transport to the Lake Geneva region. This allows expats who work in Lausanne and Vevey to commute from Fribourg, where the cost of renting a house or apartment is cheaper. This same phenomenon is also seen in parts of Vaud, Bern and Neuchâtel.

Swiss cities remain hotspots for new arrivals

Finally, the NZZ noted that Swiss cities, as hubs for international companies, consistently attract non-Swiss residents. Of the largest cities, Geneva has the highest proportion of expats at 49,2 percent of the population, followed by Lausanne (49,2 percent), Basel (38,5), Zug (36,1), Zurich (33), St. Gallen (32,4) and Bern (24,5).

For more information, check out the NZZ website.

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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