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School class: Fluhmühle school in Littau, Canton Lucerne (in new window)

School class: Fluhmühle school in Littau, Canton Lucerne© Andri Pol / Swiss Customs Museum

In comparison with other European countries the number of foreigners taking Swiss nationality is quite low, although one in every 10 adults holding Swiss citizenship in 2001 had acquired it through naturalisation. Between 1992 and 2005 the annual number of naturalisations trebled. Three quarters of those taking Swiss nationality in 2005 came from Europe. One third of them were born in Switzerland.

One third of the people living in Switzerland in the same year were either migrants themselves or the descendants of migrants, according to the Federal Statistical Office.

The proportion of foreigners in the resident population is high, standing at 21.7% in 2008, although they are extremely unevenly spread. In Europe only Luxembourg and Liechtenstein have higher proportions.

The proportion of foreigners is particularly high among children: the 2000 census showed that overall 25.8% of children under 6 years old did not have Swiss nationality. In the five biggest cities 45% of children in this age range were not Swiss. About one fifth of the children born in Switzerland have at least one foreign parent.

At the end of 2006, 21.4% of the foreigners resident in Switzerland came from one of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia. Italian citizens accounted for 18.9% of them, followed by citizens of Portugal (11.2%) and Germany (11.1%), Turkey (4.8%), France (4.7%) and Spain (4.4%).

The overwhelming majority of foreign residents, 86.5% in 2006, comes from Europe, but the proportion whose home countries are further afield continues to increase.

Nearly one quarter of these foreign residents were born and have grown up in Switzerland; some of them now have their own children. Second-generation foreigners are often referred to as secondos (or secondas, for women).

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