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There has been significant immigration to Switzerland since the 1980s. By contrast, during the 19th century, emigration from Switzerland was more common, as Switzerland was economically a poor country where a large fraction of population survived on subsistence farming.
As of 2008, 30.6% of Swiss resident population had an "immigrant background", defined as either immigrants or children born to immigrant parents.
The largest immigrant groups in Switzerland are those from Italy, Germany, Former Yugoslavia and Albanians, Portuguese and Turkey (Turks and Kurds). Between them, these five groups account for about 1.5 million people, 60% of the Swiss population with immigrant background, or close to 20% of total Swiss population.
In 2009, a total number of 160,600 people immigrated to Switzerland, while a total number of 86,000 people left the country, leaving a net immigration of 74,600 people. This number consists of a net number of 79,000 foreigners immigrating to Switzerland, and 4,500 Swiss citizens emigrating from Switzerland.
Net migration for the period 2005 to 2010:
Population growth in Switzerland is mostly due to immigration: in 2009, there have been 78,286 live births recorded (74% Swiss, 26% foreign nationalities), contrasting with 62,476 deaths (92% Swiss, 8% foreigners). Thus, of the population growth rate of 1.1% during 2009, about 0.2% are due to births, and 0.9% due to immigration.
As of 2009, a total number of 1,714,000 foreign nationals were registered as residing in Switzerland, accounting for 22.0% of total population. Of these, 1,680,000 had permanent residence (excluding exchange students, seasonal workers and asylum seekers). Of these, 354,000 were born in Switzerland. Another 522,000 had resided in Switzerland for more than 15 years. Swiss nationality law permits naturalization after a period of twelve years. 43,440 people were naturalized as Swiss citizens in 2009.
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The largest immigrant ethnic groups in Switzerland are:
Industrialization and banking made Switzerland prosperous by the late 19th century and began to attract significant numbers of migrant workers. Free movement of population was established with neighbouring countries in the late 19th century, and as a consequence, there was an increase from 211,000 resident foreigners in 1880 (7.5% of total population) to 552,000 in 1910 (14.7% of total population). There was net emigration of foreign residents during the World Wars era. The fraction of foreign residents fell to 10.4% by 1920, and to 5.1% by 1941. Immigration has picked up again after 1945.
Beginning in the mid 1950s, immigration increased steeply, and the historical record of close to 15% foreigners prior to World War I was surpassed at some time during the 1960s. During the later 1960s, the trend was reversed, resulting in a net emigration of foreign citizens by the 1970s, a trend reinforced by the economic recession of 1973-1974.[clarification needed] Counting only the foreign nationals with permanent residence (discounting seasonal workers and exchange students, etc.), there was a net emigration of 66,858 in 1975. Since 1979, each year has resulted in a net immigration, even though the figure saw considerable fluctuations, rising from 3,400 in 1983 to 59,700 in 1991, and again falling to 1,700 in 1997. Since 1999, this figure has risen steeply. A main reason for this was the immigration of Albanians due to the Kosovo War and subsequent family reunions, as well as the freedom of movement for workers treaty with the European Union, active from 2002, resulting especially in immigration from Germany. There was a net immigration of 20,900 in 1999, rising to 43,300 in 2001, and staying consistently between 44,000 and 59,000 during 2002–2006. Another steep rise took place in 2007–2008. There was a net immigration of foreigners taking permanent residence in Switzerland of 83,200 in 2007, and of 103,400 in 2008. Net immigration has again fallen moderately in 2009, to 79,000.
The steep rise of immigrant population during the 2000s has had a noticeable effect on Swiss society. While there had been right-wing populist opposition to immigration or Überfremdung during the 1970s, suggestions for tougher immigration laws, such as the initiative due to James Schwarzenbach, were mostly turned down by the voting population. This has changed during the 2000s. The anti-immigration Swiss People's Party rose to be the largest faction in the Federal Assembly in the 2003 elections. In 2009, the voting population enacted a minaret ban as a sign of opposition to the swift growth of Islam in Switzerland, and in 2010, a popular initiative for tougher deportation laws targeting immigrant criminality.