Young Swiss increasingly positive about foreigners: report

Fewer young people in Switzerland view immigration as problem while an increasing number are likely to see the presence of foreigners in the country as an advantage.

Young Swiss increasingly positive about foreigners: report
. File photo: Depositphotos

This is one of the findings of the new Credit Suisse Youth Barometer 2018, published on Monday.

The study looked at the attitudes and concerns of 16 to 25-year-olds in Switzerland, Brazil, Singapore and the United States.

Read also: Switzerland ranked third best country to be an immigrant

It found that the number of young Swiss people who view immigration as “a very big problem” had dropped from 21 percent to 12 percent between 2010 and 2018 while the percentage seeing it as a “big problem” declined from 25 percent to 19 percent in the same period.

At the same time, 33 percent of people in this group said relations between young Swiss and foreigners were “fairly amicable” – up from just 11 percent in 2010.

A further 33 percent said these relations were “fairly tense”, half the 66 percent figure of eight years ago.

In a similar vein, the percentage of young Swiss people who said foreigners were an opportunity or an advantage for the country more than doubled from 7 precent in 2010 to 16 percent in 2018.

Study author Cloé Jans described the result as a surprise.

“This is a huge change in the perception of the problem within just a few years,” she said.

She said the change could be down to the fact that the generation of immigrants from the Balkans had now integrated well into Switzerland.

“A lot of young people went to school with people from the Balkans and see them as part of our society,” Jans was quoted as saying on Swiss news site 20 Minuten.

The Credit Suisse study found the greatest worry for young Swiss people was the state pension (AHV/AVS), with 53 percent of 16 to 25-year-olds naming it as one of the biggest five problems facing the country.

In second and third place among concerns were foreigners and immigration (29 percent) and asylum seekers and refugees (28 percent).

The study involving interviews with 1,000 young Swiss people also found that 87 percent of people in this group rated honesty as extremely important or very important. For ‘having friends I can count on’ this figure was 86 percent and for ‘balancing leisure time and career’ it was 81 percent.

But ‘having lots of money’ scored just 23 percent. ‘Having a good career’ was rated as extremely important or very important by 37 percent of 16 to 25-year-olds surveyed.

Read also: Are new language tests putting people off applying for Swiss citizenship?


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Which parts of Switzerland are best at speaking English?

Switzerland has dropped in an international ranking for English proficiency compared to last year. We break down the latest results, and explore where in the country has a better grasp on the English language.

Which parts of Switzerland are best at speaking English?

The Swiss have a “high proficiency” in English, ranking 29th in the world and 23rd in Europe out of 35, according to the new 2022 EF English Proficiency Index.

But the study found that English proficiency has slipped in recent years. The Alpine country ranked 25th in the 2021 and took the 18th spot the year before. 

The only central and western European countries behind Switzerland were Italy, Spain and France – three places that have long languished in the lower rankings in Europe.

The ranking is based on test results of more than two million adults in 111 countries and regions. Switzerland scored 563 points out of a total of 700 possible points in the index. The Netherlands took the top spot with 661 points.

The global average score was 502, according to the index.

What are the regional differences in Switzerland?

There are big differences across Switzerland when it comes to English proficiency, the ranking shows. 

The study looked into regional differences, and found that German-speaking regions had a higher score. The EPI score for German speaking regions was 585 out of a possible 700. 

Meanwhile, for French-speaking areas the score was 556, and for Italian-speaking regions the English proficiency score was 543. 

When it comes to cities, German-speaking Zurich – a popular destination for foreigners – scored 622 out of 700 on the English proficiency scale, while French-language Geneva scored 555. 

Although the index didn’t look into all areas, the ranking for some regions and cities is shown below. 

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index. Dark blue denotes a “very high” English proficiency level, dark green a “high” level and light green a “moderate” level.

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

Screenshot: EF English Proficiency Index

Why are there such big differences?

It’s worth nothing that Switzerland has four official languages. Around 62.1 percent of residents speak Swiss-German, 22.8 percent are French-speakers, 8 percent speak Italian, and 0.5 percent speak Romansh.

English is not an official language, It is, however, the most commonly spoken non-national language in Switzerland, and it’s regularly used by about 45 percent of the population in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: Just how good are the Swiss at speaking different languages?

So why is English more prevalent in German parts of the country? 

That could reflect the different cultures on speaking English among European countries. 

German-speaking Austria, for instance, took the second spot in the global ranking with 628 points out of 700. Germany snagged the number 10 position. 

Meanwhile, Italy was placed in the 32nd position in the ranking, Spain was number 33, and France came in at 34. These three countries are described as having “moderate proficiency” in English speaking in the index.

According to our sister site, The Local France, there are several theories on why English is less widely spoken there. One expert has said it’s because there’s a lack of exposure to English in France, while others have criticised the quality of English teaching in schools. 


So the cultural relationship with speaking English may influence those who speak that language in Switzerland. 

However, it also depends on other factors such as where people live and the demographics. Unsurprisingly, residents in Swiss cities are more likely to speak English than people in rural settings, for instance. The number of foreigners in the region also contributes to how exposed people are to English.

Younger people in Switzerland are also more likely to speak English. 

A colour-coded map of Europe on English proficiency. Dark blue denotes a “very high” level, dark green a “high” level and light green a “moderate” level. Credit: EF EPI 2022

What else do we know about English language learning in Switzerland?

Switzerland reserves 15.53 percent of total government expenditure on education, a figure above the Netherlands (12.91 percent) but just behind Norway, which ranked fourth in the global ranking and sets out almost 16 percent of government expenditure on education.

READ MORE: MAP: Where do Switzerland’s English-speakers live?