Foreigners' mobility in Switzerland: interrelation with international immigration and contextual influences

Mathias Lerch, University of Geneva
Philippe Wanner, University of Geneva

Switzerland has experienced considerable immigration flows since the Second World War. Based on longitudinal data obtained from a probabilistic linkage of administrative and Census records, the internal mobility of foreigners is analysed between 1981 and 2004. We focus on various dynamics in international migration that affect the internal redistribution of immigrants. The interrelationship is first addressed on the aggregate level in estimating the structural impact of international inflows. During the first decade under study, internal migration levels have been inflated due to the increasing numbers of recent immigrants, characterized by the highest mobility. Between 1990-4 and 2000-4, however, internal migration increased because of a qualitative change in the foreign population. Immigrants are increasingly skilled and therefore more prone to internal mobility. A second multivariate and multilevel approach also stresses their differential sensitivity to contextual factors. Being more flexible in the multiregional labour market as well as less retained by networks and urban centrality, high skilled foreigners converge towards the residential preferences of natives as evinced by their emergent peri-urbanisation. Since the socioeconomic composition of immigrants is increasingly determined by the Swiss immigration policy, we conclude that the latter inflated overall mobility levels of foreigners. It therefore sustained regional economic dynamics as well as the spatial assimilation of foreigners in Switzerland.

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Presented in Session 89: Internal mobility of international migrants