The lures of Switzerland are obvious. It is neutral, it is central (the French Riveria to the West, the Italian peninsular to the South, the Rhineland to the North and the Alps to the East) it has great chocolate, it has an interesting system of direct democracy.  I’m not alone in this view – it seems that quite a few people agree with me because nearly 50,000 people moved to live in Switzerland in 2011.  That immigration has taken the foreign born population of that nation to over 1.8million – nearly a quarter of the total population! This is a huge amount, it must be one of the highest in the world…actually I’ve just checked, and it’s only ninth in the world and New Zealand is number 10! Huh, adding that to the pub quiz trivia memory bank.

Most of these foreign born Swiss come from within the Eurozone: Italians, Germans, Portuguese and Serbs are the biggest national groupings – those four countries make up about half of the foreign born Swiss.  I wonder how many of the intra-European migrants are “economic refugees” fleeing to the (relative) safety of the Swiss Franc? 

For whatever reason, these migrants are keeping Switzerland’s population growing.  Last year, the population grew by about 85,000 people, or 1.1%.  Without immigration, “natural” increase would have been around 35,000 people or .45%. However, this wouldn’t have been unduly low by Swiss standards.  In the 1970s the growth rate slowed to just .15% a year.  Since then though, the population increase has picked up.  Since the turn of the millennium the growth rate has hovered around .9%, with 1% topped each year since 2007.  So now, with this growth Switzerland is predicted to hit 8 million people this (Northern) summer. 

Like many countries in Europe that we have profiled recently, there is population growth here, but it is reliant upon immigration.  Since 1970, the Swiss birth rate has not been higher than 2.1 – the traditional number thought necessary for population stability.  According to the CIA World Factbook the 2011 birth rate is about 1.5 and the population over 65 years old is 17%.  Thus, the number of years that Switzerland can continue to expect strong population growth are surely numbered.  Unless, of course, the Euro really goes down the gurgler.  Then there may be more than enough economic refugees for Switzerland to fuel demographic growth for a LONG time.

Marcus Roberts is a Senior Researcher at the Maxim Institute in Auckland, New Zealand, and was co-editor of the former MercatorNet blog, Demography is Destiny. Marcus has a background in the law, both...