Changing patterns of migration to high-income countries: a demonstration from Switzerland

Mathias Lerch , Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)

How has international migration to high-income countries evolved over the processes of national economic development and regional political integration? We describe the continuities and changes in the intensity, geography, sociodemographic profile and international mobility of post-WWII immigration to Switzerland. This exceptional historical depth of analysis is enabled by a combination of official statistics, censuses, registers, and large-scale surveys. Results reveal that, after an internationalization and feminization of migration in the 1980s-1990s, the new Century was marked by peak inflows from predominantly neighboring countries of mainly working aged men who stay only a couple of years in Switzerland. These recent patterns of immigration are strikingly similar to those in the 1960s. However, immigrants are now higher skilled, older and more often childless at arrival, and chose to settle in the largest cities. This changing profile of immigration and its demographic and economic impacts are discussed in the context of business cycles, the worldwide expansion of higher level education, changing labour market needs in an increasingly knowledge-based economy, and shifts in migration policies associated with regional political integration.

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 Presented in Session 79. Trends and patterns in international migration