International Geneva – Where Do We Come From?

Geneva Resident Population by Origin and Nationality. Statistics.

Geneva is certainly a global city and 41% of the cantons residents are of foreign origin or of other nationalities. Did you know just over half of all Geneva’s foreign residents come from only 4 countries? Can you guess what they are? Just how does Geneva compare to other cosmopolitan cities?

They don’t call it International Geneva for nothing and one of the best things about this city is how cosmopolitan it is despite its compact size.  It is after all a meeting place for the world and a centre for diplomacy, housing the European headquarters of the United Nations not to mention the International Red Cross and numerous NGO’s.  Walking down its streets you really do feel you are meeting the world.

With a population of almost 500 thousand people the canton of Geneva is home to 201,983 etrangers (the French word for foreigners), according to the Office Cantonal de la Statistique. It’s not surprising that people from the European Union of 28 countries make-up 27% of all Genevan residents and 65% of all foreign residents, given Switzerland’s participation in the Schengen Agreement.

Of the EU countries, Portugal, France, Italy and Spain are the countries of origin/ nationality of 21.16% of Geneva’s residents. That’s just over half of all foreign residents.

Four countries account for more than half of Geneva's residents with origin of nationality outside Switzerland.

Portugal is the country of origin or the nationality of 18% of all foreign residents and 8% of the population.  France is a close second and accounts for 15% of all foreign residents and 6% of the population.  In third place, Italy is the country of origin or the nationality of 10% of all foreign residents and 4% of all Genevan residents.  Spain accounts for 8% of all foreign residents and 3% of the population.

Top ten countries of origin or nationality for Geneva's foreign residents. Portuagal, France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Kosovo, Germany, U.S.A., Russia, Brazil

The top ten countries Portugal, France, Italy, Spain, Great Britain, Kosovo, Germany, U.S.A., Russia and Brazil make up 66% of all foreign residents.

However, the Office Cantonal de la Statistique counts both first generation and second generation immigrants as being of foreign origin.  That means if you were born in Switzerland but both your parents were born outside the country you would be included among the 41% of foreign residents for the purposes of these statistics, even if you were naturalised.  By comparison Brussels has a foreign-born population of  62% and Toronto of 46%, but these numbers reflect only people born outside their country of residency.


The World's Most Cosmopolitan Cities. A graph showing Dubai, Brussels, Toronto, Auckland, Sydney, Los Angles, Singapore, London, New York, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris, Stockholm

In fact, the City of Toronto claims that 51% of it’s residents were born outside Canada, according to the 2011 census.  An interesting note in looking at the 2011 census is that despite half the city being born outside of the country only 14% of Toronto residents did not have Canadian citizenship.  Home to 230 nationalities Toronto also tops many diversity lists and has been declared by the BBC to be the most diverse country in the world, at the expense of London’s own claim to the title.  Toronto is a large city though and Brussels has over a million inhabitants.  Geneva despite it’s size holds rank with these cities.

Geneva can count at least 210 nationalities among it’s residents.  It’s a small city that brings together the world.


  • over 140 multinationals
  • 36 international organisations
  • 300 non governmental organisations (NGO’s)
  • and 200 diplomatic missions

this city isn’t going to lose the title International Geneva any time soon.

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