How do the Swiss really feel about foreigners?

As part of a larger survey on diversity in Switzerland, researchers examined what the Swiss public thinks of foreign nationals living in their midst, and what rights they should have.

How do the Swiss really feel about foreigners?
Overall, Swiss people are tolerant of foreigners.Photo by Photo by STEFAN WERMUTH / AFP

Some interesting facts emerge from the study carried out by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO).

The research was intended to “ gauge attitudes towards statements that are deliberately provocative”, the FSO explained of the study released on Thursday.

It added that the answers “indicate the level of openness of the population, by focusing on the attitudes toward foreigners’ rights and on their behaviours – both real and imaginary”.

As the chart below shows, 70 percent of respondents “strongly agree” or “rather agree” that foreign nationals should have the right to have their family living with them in Switzerland; 59 percent believe second-generation foreigners should be granted Swiss citizenship at birth; and 50 percent said non-nationals should be allowed to participate in the country’s political process.

READ MORE: Will Swiss-born foreigners be granted automatic citizenship?

And 70 percent think foreigners should not have to leave the country when jobs in Switzerland are scarce.

The majority of respondents (70 percent) also believe foreigners are essential for Switzerland’s economy and that they do the work that Swiss don’t want to do.

Additionally, 75 percent disagree with the claim of rightwing groups that foreigners are responsible for any increase in the unemployment rate, and more than half (57 percent) reject the notion — also widespread in the rightwing circles — that foreigners abuse social benefits.

Clear majority of respondents (77 percent) don’t believe foreigners create unsafe environment in the streets and 76 percent reject the notion that the presence of foreign children in schools causes decline in the level of education.

However, the Swiss feel that foreign population poses some threats.

Foremost among them (62 percent) is that foreigners will demand special rights and that they will cause political unrest (60 percent).

Half of respondents are worried that foreigners will undermine Swiss culture and traditions.

The study also examined why some Swiss feel uncomfortable in the presence of foreigners.

Nearly 20 percent attributed their discomfort to the “itinerant way of life”, 11 percent to language and 9 percent to religion.

Only 5 percent said they were uncomfortable with skin colour and 7 percent with nationality.

Other study findings can be seen here.

READ MORE: I thought I was Swiss? How being mistaken as a national can put you on the road to citizenship

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Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence

Swiss government has devised three contingency plans that could be implemented to fight a new outbreak. What are they?

Three scenarios: How Switzerland plans to fight a Covid resurgence
Authorities want to prevent overcrowded hospitals if new wave comes. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP

Although Switzerland relaxed a number of coronavirus rules from June 26th and 28th, “the pandemic is not over”, as Health Minister Alain Berset said at a press conference on Wednesday.

Berset said Switzerland should not become complacent, with last summer a warning against feeling that the battle is won. 

He added, however, that the new wave is unlikely to be as large as the previous ones due to the country’s vaccination campaign.

This situation leaves a degree of uncertainty for which the government wants to be prepared as well as possible, Berset noted.

The Federal Council established a “just-in-case” procedure on Wednesday for three possible scenarios that could take place in the autumn and winter. 

These plans focus mainly on the rapid detection of variants and the continuation of vaccination, testing, and tracing.

The best-case scenario: status quo

In this scenario, the number of cases remains at a low level, though small outbreaks are still possible.

The number of infections may increase slightly due to seasonal factors — the virus is known to spread slower in summer and faster in autumn and winter—  but does not place a significant burden on the health system.

If this happens, no measures beyond those already in place would be necessary.

READ MORE: ANALYSIS: Is Switzerland lifting its Covid-19 restrictions too quickly?

Not so good: more contaminations

In this second scenario, there is an increase in the number of cases in autumn or winter.

There may be several reasons for this, for example the large proportion of unvaccinated people, seasonal effects — people tend to stay indoors together in cold weather, and contaminations are easier — or the appearance of new, more infectious variants.

This situation could overburden the health system and require the reintroduction of certain measures, such as the obligation to wear a mask outdoors.

Booster vaccinations may also be necessary.

The worst: new virus mutations

In scenario three, one or more new variants appear, against which the vaccine or the post-recovery immunity are less effective or no longer effective.

A new wave of pandemic emerges, requiring strong intervention by the public authorities and a new vaccination.

Which of the three scenarios is most likely to happen?

The government hasn’t said, but judging by the comments of health officials, the latter two are the strongest contenders.

Firstly, because the highly contagious Delta mutation, which is spreading quickly through many countries, is expected to be dominant in Switzerland within a few weeks.

It is expected that the virus will spread mostly to those who are not vaccinated and, to a lesser degree, to people who have only had one shot of the vaccine, according to Andreas Cerny, epidemiologist at the University of Bern

READ MORE: How Switzerland plans to contain the Delta variant

Another concern is related to the appearance of the new variants which could be as or possibly even more contagious than Delta and not as responsive to the current vaccines.

The government said the best chance of avoiding the second or third scenarios is to ensure people are vaccinated. 

“Widespread vaccination of the population is crucial to relieve the burden on the healthcare system and to manage the epidemic. A possible increase in the number of coronavirus cases in the autumn will largely depend on the proportion of the population that has been vaccinated,” the government wrote in a press statement.

The government has also indicating it is preparing for booster vaccinations to take place in 2022 and are encouraging cantons to keep their vaccine infrastructures in place.