25 July 2017
More than a third of immigrants living in Switzerland say they have experienced discrimination, but most feel their lives have improved here, according to a new survey.
On the Move, a nationwide survey on immigration, is due to be published next year but initial results were revealed by Blick on Monday as part of the paper’s week-long focus on foreigners in Switzerland.
Led by the universities of Neuchâtel and Geneva, the survey asked 6,000 immigrants of 11 nationalities (from across Europe, North and South America, India and West Africa) how they felt about living in Switzerland.
Some 35 percent said they had experienced discrimination here, not always because of their status as a foreigner but also due to their gender, race and age.
Nevertheless, the vast majority (90 percent) said they were satisfied or very satisfied that they came here, according to Blick.
Some 70 percent of those questioned said coming to Switzerland had been a professional advantage and they were in a better situation than in their home country.
The figure was higher (75 percent) for people from the southern European countries Portugal, Italy and Spain, but less pronounced for British people and those from North and South America.
Level of satisfaction (improved/stayed the same/reduced) after emigrating. Source: On the Move/NCCR
Most immigrants (62 percent) said they came to Switzerland for professional reasons, with 38 percent saying it was to change their lifestyle or have new experiences. Twenty-nine percent cited family reasons and eight percent education.
But the stats varied widely depending on the country of origin, with 65 percent of Brits saying they came here for professional reasons compared with only around 20 percent of West Africans and South Americans.
The survey also questioned immigrants about their feelings towards Switzerland and their home countries.
Despite living in the alpine country, over half (52 percent) said they still felt a strong attachment to their home country.
Two notable exceptions were the French and the South Americans, a majority of whom said they felt a stronger attachment to Switzerland than to their home country.
The Portuguese, Austrians and Germans felt least attached to Switzerland, at 30 percent.
Speaking to Blick, researcher Philippe Wanner said the strength of feeling towards Switzerland depended on how the immigrant viewed their move – for example, if migration is considered a professional opportunity, the feeling of connection to the adopted country is stronger.
That explains why the French, who often come to Switzerland because they are dissatisfied with France, feel a strong attachment to their adopted country while the Portuguese, who usually come out of necessity, do not.
“The degree of affinity with Switzerland does not say anything about the level of integration of migrants,” he stressed.
Just under half of those questioned said they wanted to become Swiss, though the results varied considerably depending on where the immigrant was from.
West Africans and South Americans were more likely to want to pursue Swiss citizenship (69 percent and 62 percent respectively). At the other end of the scale a majority of Austrians and Portuguese said they did not want to become Swiss. The Austrian result could be partly explained by the fact that Austria does not allow double nationality.
Among those who said they wanted to become Swiss, 26 percent said it was because they wanted to vote, 25 percent because they felt attached to Switzerland, while 22 percent cited practical reasons.
Introducing its series of articles on foreigners in Switzerland, Blick editor Andreas Dietrich said “we should not forget the contribution that foreigners make” to the country.
“There are Swiss people who would prefer to live without foreigners,” he added. “Such a Switzerland has never existed and thankfully will never exist. That would be a country where we would feel alien.”