Population of Switzerland reaches 9 million for the first time
For the first time ever, over 9 million people call Switzerland home, according to the latest data from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO). The Swiss population has experienced rapid growth, increasing by 50 percent between 1967 and today.
Swiss population hits 9 million
In the latest population figures, given to the Tages-Anzeiger, the FSO announced that 9.006.664 people now live in Switzerland - an all-time record. Both Swiss citizens and holders of residence permits are included in the figure.
For reference, Switzerland’s population hit 6 million for the first time in 1967, 7 million in 1994 and 8 million in 2012. The Tages-Anzeiger noted that while a large number of people have been born in Switzerland during this time, the majority of the population growth can be attributed to expats and internationals coming to the country over the years.
Swiss housing market expands to accommodate new arrivals
To accommodate these newcomers, the amount of space devoted to housing in Switzerland has expanded by 180 square kilometres in the last 10 years. This change has come at the cost of farmland, with the amount of agricultural land in the alpine nation decreasing by 1.100 square kilometres during the same period, the size of Canton Uri - although the total size of wooded areas has increased by 5 percent.
Contrary to what some political parties may suggest, the number of available jobs in Switzerland has actually increased with rising immigration, by 52 percent since 2008. The biggest rises in vacancies were recorded in the healthcare and public service sectors. At the same time, the unemployment rate sits at a near-all-time-low of 2 percent.
Immigration has led to prosperity but also shortages, report claims
The Tages-Anzeiger noted that as Switzerland’s population increased, so too did prosperity, with Swiss GDP increasing by more than 20 percent since 2002 - more than Austria, France and Italy but less than Germany, the US and Sweden. Crime rates have also fallen by 25 percent compared to 2012.
However, there are some areas where Switzerland's higher population has posed challenges, especially in the housing market. As the country registers record shortages of houses and apartments to rent and buy - largely due to the high demand caused by immigration - new data from Wüest Partner noted that the price of single-family homes has risen by 50 percent on average between 2012 and 2022.
SVP launches referendum to stop population growth
With it taking just over 10 years for Switzerland’s population to grow by a million people, many within the government and society want to make sure the next major milestone is delayed or never reached. As part of its campaign for the Swiss federal elections in October, the Swiss People’s Party (SVP) - the likely winner of the election - recently launched the “No 10 Million Switzerland! (Sustainability Initiative)” (Keine 10-Millionen-Schweiz! (Nachhaltigkeits-Initiative)).
The initiative itself, if approved, would order the government to stop the population from exceeding 10 million people before 2050, and “take measures” to make immigration more sustainable in regard to the environment, infrastructure and healthcare and insurance costs.
SVP referendum would give government power to curtail immigration
While these "sustainable" policies would have to be implemented by the Federal Council themselves, not the SVP, they would likely involve curtailing the number of people allowed to move to Switzerland - although how this would be achieved, given the free movement of people policy between Switzerland and the EU, remains to be seen.
For instance, if the population exceeds 9,5 million people before 2050, the referendum instructs the government to bar “temporarily admitted people” from receiving residence permits or citizenship, and seek renegotiations on international treaties that “drive population growth.”
Opponents argue SVP initiative will hurt economy and pensions
While it does have support among the SVP, many in parliament have argued that reducing the number of new migrants would make the country's crippling worker shortage worse - 800.000 jobs are already expected to be vacant by 2030 despite high rates of immigration, according to a new study by the University of St. Gallen. There are also concerns that, as more people retire, reducing the number of new expats paying taxes could severely weaken the financial stability of the Swiss pension system.
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