More And More Swiss Are Living Abroad

(MENAFN- Swissinfo) The population of the Swiss Abroad is growing. At the end of 2023, 813,400 Swiss were living beyond the country's borders, 1.7% more than in the previous year. For Ariane Rustichelli, director of the Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA), these figures mirror our increasingly mobile society.

This content was published on July 11, 2024 - 09:00 4 minutes

Journalist based in Bern. I am particularly interested in topics about society, Politics and social media. Previously I worked in regional media, for the newspaper Journal du Jura and Radio Jura bernois.

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More and more Swiss are living abroad. In 2023, the diaspora grew by 1.7% compared to the previous year, reaching 813,400 members, as the latest figuresExternal link from the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) show. This is a stronger growth than in the previous year (1.5%).

Migration movements are not the only cause of this increase. Children born abroad to Swiss nationals and acquisitions of citizenship are also contributing factors, the FSO points out.

“This growth is a reflection of a society in which mobility is increasing. It is also in line with the ever-growing Swiss population,” says Rustichelli.

Kai Reusser / swissinfo France as a preferred destination

FSO statistics also provide information on the favourite destinations of the Swiss. Almost two-thirds of Swiss expats live in Europe.“This distribution shows the reality of the expat population, which mainly moves to neighbouring countries,” Rustichelli points out.

The largest Swiss community outside of our borders can be found in France, where more than a quarter of the Swiss Abroad live. It is followed by Germany, Italy, the UK and Spain.

Interestingly, relatively few Swiss nationals live in Portugal (6,900), but their numbers have increased by 13.9% compared to the previous year, which is the biggest growth in Europe.

Asia is getting more popular

However, many Swiss also make their homes in more distant lands. Around 292,700 live on other continents: 16% in North America, 7% in Latin America and the Caribbean, 7% in Asia, 4% in Oceania and 1% in Africa.

Their numbers have grown on every continent, except Africa. However, it is in Asia that the Swiss diaspora has seen the strongest growth (3.1%). On this continent, the largest Swiss community is to be found in Israel. It is largely made up of children, 46% are under the age of 18. Thailand and the Philippines follow

Rustichelli distinguishes between two types of Swiss expatriates in Asia:“There are pensioners who primarily move to Thailand, but there is also economic migration which concentrates on the major urban centres, such as Singapore and Hong Kong.”

More and more seniors abroad

More than half of the Swiss Abroad are aged between 18 and 65 and therefore of working age. However, as in 2022, the age group that has seen the biggest increase (3.9%) are those over 65. Swiss citizens who spend their retirement abroad are mainly found in Thailand, Portugal, Spain and South Africa.

The number of Swiss retirees increased last year particularly in Portugal (+15.6%) and in Thailand (8.2%). Rustichelli believes that Portugal's tax policy, which exempts non-habitual residents from tax for the first ten years, partly explains this growth.“As for Thailand, it has specialised in welcoming Western retirees with luxurious retirement homes at affordable prices,” the OSA director points out.

A hurtful campaign

In general, the increase in the number of senior citizens in Fifth Switzerland is of concern to the OSA.“While this development is partly due to ageing, emigration also plays an important role”, the organisation writes in a press releaseExternal link .

OSA attributes this phenomenon to the growing risk of poverty among senior citizens. It notes that, according to a study by the research project nccr – on the moveExternal link , seniors most often cite high Swiss prices and the desire to maintain or improve their quality of life as reasons for moving abroad.

“This is a political and social reality that the Confederation must take seriously,” says Rustichelli. She says that the image of Swiss pensioners abroad living in luxury does not correspond to reality.

The director of the OSA deplores the particularly aggressive campaign which targeted the Fifth Switzerland in the context of the federal vote on a 13th monthly pension payment. Their members were labelled as“profiteers”.“The Swiss community abroad has been hurt by the unfair criticism directed at them,” says Rustichelli.

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Adapted from French by Claire Micallef/ds

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