Like the average MIPEX country (49/100), scoring 50 on the MIPEX 100-point scale, Swiss policies create an equal number of opportunities and obstacles for non-EU immigrants to fully participate in Swiss society. Switzerland’s integration policies score 7-8 points below the average Western European/OECD country (e.g. below France, Germany, Italy and the UK).
The obstacles emerge throughout the legal framework. Victims of discrimination are less protected and supported in Swiss than anywhere else on the continent. Faced with some of the most restrictive policies in Western Europe, non-EU citizens in Switzerland are less likely to reunite with their family, enjoy a secure status or become a full citizen.
The opportunities mostly emerge through trends in cantons' integration practices. The Swiss National Programme on Migration and Health was classified as world-leading for its innovations in Swiss cantons’ healthcare systems. Cantonal policies on labour market mobility and political participation come close to what's average in Western Europe. Depending on the canton, non-EU immigrants have very different options for the labour market, public life, education and training and health services. These differences in policies and outcomes between cantons are well monitored by academic and government indicators.
Switzerland’s approach to integration is classified by MIPEX as “Temporary Integration”. Foreign citizens can benefit from some targeted support for equal opportunities, but they do not enjoy the long-term security to settle permanently, invest in integration and participate as full citizens.
Switzerland is one of the most insecure of these “Temporary Integration” countries, with policies most similar to Austria and Denmark’s. Non-EU citizens are left insecure in Switzerland, scoring 18/100 on security, more insecure than in nearly all 56 MIPEX countries, ranked 3rd from the bottom, alongside Austria and Denmark. Switzerland’s approach to equal opportunities is only favourable for integration, scoring 52/100 on opportunities, which is no better than the average Western European/OECD country. Its policies are even slightly unfavourable on basic rights for immigrants, scoring 40/100 on rights and 7th from the bottom of the 56 MIPEX countries. Switzerland is now the only European country in MIPEX without a national anti-discrimination law and equality body to help victims.
Switzerland’s ‘Temporary Integration’ approach encourages the Swiss public to see immigrants as foreigners and not as the equals of native Swiss citizens. Internationally, the ‘Top Ten’ MIPEX countries treat immigrants as equals, neighbours and potential citizens, and invest in integration as a two-way process for society.
A country’s integration policies matter because the way that governments treat immigrants strongly influences how well immigrants and the public interact and think of each other. Drawing on 130 independent scientific studies using MIPEX, integration policies emerge as one of the strongest factors shaping not only the public’s willingness to accept and interact with immigrants, but also immigrants’ own attitudes, belonging, participation and even health in their new home country.
- Labour market mobility: Slightly favourable: With policies average for Western European/OECD countries, Switzerland promotes quality employment outcomes for some—but not all—non-EU citizens with the right to work. They can access self-employment, public employment services, social assistance, education and training, including language courses, while long-settled residents and their families enjoy access to study grants and the full labour market.
- Family reunification: Halfway favourable: Non-EU families face some of the least favourable family reunification procedures in Switzerland, ranking below the average EU/OECD countries, in the international bottom 10, along with Austria, Germany and France. Non-EU citizens cannot apply for their entire nuclear family and face some of the most restrictive requirements in the developed world, while reunited family members may be dependent on their sponsor for years.
- Education: Halfway favourable: With policies average for Western European/OECD countries, Swiss cantons are adapting schools to the needs and benefits of a diverse classroom, with targeted guidance, training and language support. In terms of potential areas for improvement, Swiss schools need to ensure full access to compulsory and non-compulsory education and address issues of segregation and diversity at school.
- Health: Favourable: Inspired by the common right and duty to basic insurance for all, Switzerland’s migrant health policies are ranked #2 internationally, alongside Ireland, New Zealand and Sweden. Switzerland’s World-leading "Migration and Health" programme address immigrant health outcomes through accessible and rather responsive services for all categories of migrants. These practices include the migesplus.ch multilingual website, the INTERPRET Centre and telephone service for community interpreting, national networks like the Swiss Hospitals for Equity Network, training modules, and research/monitoring.
- Political participation: Halfway favourable: With policies average for Western Europe, promoting immigrants' political participation is the sign of confident destination countries and cantons: Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Basel-Stadt, Fribourg, Geneva, Graubunden, Jura, Neuchâtel, Vaud. Since the 2000s, these cantons have been opening voting rights, consultative bodies, information campaigns and funding options for immigrant-led civil society.
- Permanent residence: Halfway favourable: Permanent residence in Switzerland emerges as one of the weakest tools for integration in Western Europe, ranking below the average EU/OECD countries in the international bottom 10. One of longest and most demanding paths to long-term residence delays equal opportunities for newcomers and keeps most non-EU citizens in Switzerland relatively insecure in their status.
- Access to nationality: Slightly unfavourable: Immigrants, their children and even their grandchildren face more lengthy, complicated and costly paths to citizenship in Switzerland than in the average Western European/OECD country. Clearer entitlement to citizenship for immigrants and the second generation could significantly increase Switzerland’s below-average naturalisation rates and boost immigrants’ acceptance, socio-economic status, political participation, sense of belonging and trust.
- Anti-discrimination: Slightly unfavourable: Far below EU/OECD standards in the international bottom 10, Switzerland is the only European country with slightly unfavourable approach to anti-discrimination, without a comprehensive national law or equality body with legal standing. A sizeable number of potential victims are poorly protected against racial, ethnic, religious and nationality discrimination. Anti-discrimination policies appear to have a long-term impact on reshaping public attitudes, discrimination awareness, reporting, trust and other integration outcomes.