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Switzerland people & culture

Surrounded as it is by diverse western European countries, it is no wonder that Switzerland has a diverse population. There are around 7.5 million people living in Switzerland
Surrounded as it is by diverse western European countries, it is no wonder that Switzerland has a diverse population. There are around 7.5 million people living in Switzerland. Foreigners account for about 20% of the population, and about 35% of Swiss households are households of one. The number of marriages in Switzerland has dropped over the past decade, and the number of divorces has increased. Women having their first child have an average age of just under 30.

The four official languages of Switzerland, German, French, Italian, and Romansh are unevenly distributed, with German being the language spoken by the highest percentage of Swiss (64%), followed by French (20%), then Italian (6.5%), Romansh, (0.5%), and "other" (9%). Romansh is an old language that is similar to Latin. Swiss German is different sounding than the German spoken in Germany, but the written languages are quite similar.

Seventeen of the 26 Swiss cantons are German speaking. French is spoken in western Switzerland in the cantons of Geneva, Jura, Neuchatel, and Vaud. There are also three cantons that are French/German bilingual: Valais, Fribourg, and Bern. The canton of Ticino and in the southern valleys of the canton Graubunden are Italian speaking. Romansh is spoken in the one trilingual canton, Graubunden. The other languages of that canton are German and Italian.

With foreigners making up 20% of the population, there are many other languages spoken in Switzerland. These "other" languages outnumber Romansh and Italian. The foreign language spoken most widely is Serbian/Croation, spoken by 1.4%. English is spoken by 1% of the population. The foreign population is especially high among children. In 2000, over 25% of children under age 6 did not have Swiss nationality. This is even more pronounced in the five largest Swiss cities, where 45% of children under 6 were not Swiss. Approximately 20% of the children born in Switzerland have at least one foreign parent.

By the end of 2006, 21% of foreigners living in Switzerland came from one of the states that were formed from former Yugoslavia. Italian citizens accounted for almost 19% of foreigners, followed by foreigners from Portugal, Germany, Turkey, France, and Spain. Over 85% of foreign residents come from Europe, but that is changing as foreigners from places farther away increasingly move to Switzerland.

About 25% of foreign residents were born in Switzerland and grew up there. In fact, some of them now have their own Swiss-born children. The second generation foreigners are called "secondos" (men) and "secondas" (women). Only the European countries of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein have a higher proportion of foreigners than Switzerland.

About 10% of the Swiss live in other countries, and the balance of migration, defined as the the number of emigrants subtracted from the number of immigrants has been negative since 1992. Additionally, deaths have outnumbered births in the decade following 1998. In 2005, some 650,000 Swiss lived abroad temporarily or permanently. Two-thirds of those emigrants live in Europe. Swiss living abroad have the right to participate in elections in Switzerland.

Religious belief and practice have diminished in recent years, and at the same time, the religions have diversified. Some 43% of Swiss follow Catholicism, with 35% who are Protestants. Two percent are Eastern Orthodox, and 4% are Muslims. The rest either do not have a religion or classify themselves as "other."

Because of the low birth rate and the longer life expectancy of 79 for men and 84 for women, the percentage of Swiss who are older is expected to increase in the upcoming decade. Although many women have entered the workforce, the ratio of people who are employed to those who are on pensions is falling, which makes for a challenging situation for social programs that care for pensioners.

Switzerland is known widely for its high standard of living, with one of the highest incomes per capita in the world. Around 70% of households have a computer, more than half the population has internet connections. In the year 2000 each person in Switzerland had an average of 44 square meters of living space, and 66% of the population rent their living accommodations.

In addition to sports such as alpine skiing, reading is a popular leisure activity in Switzerland. Also popular are relaxing with friends and family and listening to music. Playing a musical instrument is at the bottom of the list of leisure activities, and watching TV makes a strong showing as a leisure time activity. In terms of identity, young people tend to feel like they take their identity more from the leisure activities they pursue and the group of friends they belong to more than from their occupation.

Switzerland is a dynamic country with a very diverse population. High numbers of immigrants have always sought out Switzerland, and this continues today, with immigrants coming more from eastern Europe and other places farther away.

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