How inclusive is Switzerland?

Breathtaking mountains, ski-resorts, beautiful lakes, delicious chocolate, pocketknife’s, watches, a safe economy and a well-managed banking system are the first things people think when they hear about Switzerland. Indeed, Switzerland is a unique country! However, what often gets forgotten about Switzerland is its very diverse population. According to Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office, in 2019, almost 40% of the permanent resident population aged 15 and older had a migration background. In addition, over the last few years, Switzerland has been ranked by many as the best country in the world to immigrate to and is seen as the top destination for international career mobility because there are four official languages spoken in Switzerland. Considering this, one would believe that Switzerland must be a multicultural country. Which is true, but is it also inclusive?

The global 2020 anti-racism movement in the US has also echoed in Switzerland and thousands of protesters marched on the streets. Racial justice demonstrations of this caliber have never been seen before in Switzerland. Even the Swiss broadcasting company SRF aired a special Talk on Racism titled “Jetzt Reden wir Schwarzen” (Now we Blacks are Talking). However, criticism came quickly because to everyone’s surprise most of the invited speakers were white, sharing “their” opinion about race and racism in Switzerland. The discussions were not well perceived by the public, specifically when the participants argued that “racism in Switzerland is not a matter of concern.” SRF tried to make up for their mistake and hosted a second talk, inviting Black Swiss people. The discussions were different, but the harm has already been done. This first talk show experience showed that the lack of acknowledging racial and xenophobic prejudices explains that Switzerland is not racially conscious. Having a non-colonial past and thus a colorblind policy approach impacts how Switzerland reflects on race and ethnicity.

Recent statistics have highlighted these challenges. 

According to the 2020 Survey on diversity and coexistence in Switzerland, 32% of the survey participants said they had been subjected to at least one type of discrimination over the past five years. This number rose by about four percentage points compared to 2018. In the survey, 55% stated they were discriminated against because of their non-Swiss nationality, 35% said they were discriminated against because of their language or accent. Discrimination has been most experienced in the workplace (over 50%), while over 30% have experienced unfair treatment in public spaces and 19% reported they have been subject to discrimination in school and educational settings.

                                                                       (Source: Federal Statistical Office)

The most surprising revelation from this survey is that 58% of the survey participants consider racism a significant social problem. These are high percentages when considering that the general public claims that racism or discrimination is not a matter of concern in Switzerland. While the situation cannot be compared to the US, UK, or France, the problem still needs to be discussed and addressed because Switzerland is not immune to structural and institutional racism.

How inclusive is Switzerland? It can be argued that the country is slowly working on addressing racism and advancing diversity and inclusion. Specifically, to include diversity categories that go beyond gender equality and acknowledge race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, (dis) ability, age and other intersectional categories. Taking multiple diversity categories as part of a holistic diversity and inclusion strategy must be among the top priorities for policymakers, companies, institutions and organisations to ensure an inclusive environment. Constructive discussions on these topics are essential to dismantle any forms of discrimination and educate society on how to be allies for marginalised communities.

Sources:

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/is-racism-a-problem-in-switzerland–a-look-at-the-2019-statistics/45824452

https://diveinfestival.com/a-discussion-on-racism-xenophobia-in-switzerland/

https://www.bfs.admin.ch/bfs/en/home/statistics/population/migration-integration/diversity-coexistence-switzerland/experience-of-discrimination.html

This article has been written by Steven Müller (Marketing Manager Kesecurix) and Kossiwa Tossoukpe (CEO and Founder Kesecurix)

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