Bern and Geneva losing citizens as people move to leafy suburbs

Bern and Geneva losing citizens as people move to leafy suburbs

New data from Swiss cities have shown that many are choosing to ditch the urban lifestyle for the countryside. Population figures show that Geneva and Bern have seen a decline in population between 2019 and 2021, with people choosing to look for a house or apartment elsewhere.

People in Switzerland moving from cities to the countryside

Currently, one in seven people in Switzerland live in one of the six largest cities in the country, attracted by jobs and work opportunities. Now, the advent of working from home has meant that workers can choose to vacate the cities and live elsewhere.

This phenomenon is most profound in Geneva and Bern, which lost between 100 and 800 inhabitants each in three years, with more marginal cities like Winterthur, Lucerne and St. Gallen seeing large population rises. This is partially due to the decline in international students attending Swiss universities during the pandemic, but can also be blamed on a move away from city centres.

Swiss cities less popular after the start of home working

In Geneva, the populations of leafy suburban communities like Vernier, Pregny-Chambésy and Cologny grew strongly during the pandemic. As many people no longer had to commute into the city, more and more residents sought the refuge of suburbia.

This has also been seen in Bern, with Mayor Alec von Graffenried explaining back in August 2021 that the home office has meant that families’ priorities change when choosing the right place to live. Instead of close public transport connections to the city, people are choosing to prioritise space for a designated working area, which, because of the high prices in Swiss cities, is making families relocate to more rural areas.

Instead of seeing population growth in the thousands, as was expected in the cities of Zurich and Basel, people have begun to move to smaller councils (Gemeinde) around the metropolitan areas. The inner city of Zurich recorded no new residents between 2019 and 2021, whereas Fällanden, a small town on Lake Greifensee, saw 4,6 percent more residents in the last year alone.

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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