Switzerland’s main business hub is very well connected globally and attracts many expatriates. But Zurich does not grant its foreign residents any say in political matters – an apparent contradiction in a country proud of its direct democracy. The authorities in Switzerland’s most populous city are now considering ways to enhance the participation of this important group. The city of Zurich has about 425,000 residents – 32% of whom do not hold a Swiss passport. Many are expats working for international or Swiss companies. They are highly skilled, hold good jobs and earn high salaries.
In addition, they pay taxes and contribute financially to the country’s social security system, including the old age pension and the unemployment insurance schemes.
However, the locals are not keen on their foreign neighbours having political participation. In a 2013 vote at the canton Zurich, voters refused to grant municipalities the right to give their non-Swiss residents a say at a local level. None of the 185 municipalities, not even in the city of Zurich, accepted the initiative, which was mainly supported by parties on the left.