Definition of the characteristics

Source: Swiss Health Survey (SHS)

Language region 

German/Rheato-Romanic vs. French vs.Italian 
Communes are allocated to a language region based on the Federal Statistical Office’s document “Switzerland’s spatial classification” (as on 1.1.2015). The main language of the commune is decisive and not that of the canton in which the commune is found.

  • German/Rheato-Romanic: The Romansh-speaking region is not considered separately due to the size of its sample, but is instead incorporated into the German-speaking region.
  • French: The region “French” includes also various municipalities in the cantons of Bern, Fribourg and Valais, Jura and Bern.
  • Italien: The region “Italien” includes also various municipalities in the canton of Grisons. 

Region of residence 

Urban vs. intermediate vs. rural 
Since 2012, communes have been divided into three areas (previously two) in accordance with the Federal Statistical Office’s typology: In addition to the categories “urban” and “rural”, an “intermediate” area has been defined for communes with both urban and rural characteristics. Depending on their density, size and accessibility, Switzerland’s communes are allocated to one of the three areas. The criteria for assigning communes to a category can be consulted at the following FSO web page (in German) and on the following FSO map (in German). 

Education level   

Compulsory education vs. upper secondary level vs. tertiary level 
The age in education level is limited to 25+ years. This eliminates bias caused by the fact that younger people are often still in education.

  • Compulsory education 
    - Did not attend compulsory schooling  
    - Compulsory schooling not completed
    - Only compulsory school completed  
    - 1-year education and training course: 10th school year/vocational selection school/language school with certificate/bridging course (this category is only assigned to compulsory education from the SHS2017 onwards. In earlier surveys it was assigned upper secondary level) 
  • Upper secondary level 
    - 2-year vocational education: Federal certificate (former basic vocational training 1-2 years),
    - 2-year full-time vocational school, commercial college
    - 2-3-year programme: general education school (upper-secondary specialised school, upper-secondary specialised school FMS, administrative college)
    - 3-4-year apprenticeship, dual vocational education with federal proficiency certificate
    - 3-4-year full-time vocational school, training school, commercial school
    - Teacher training college (former teacher training) 
    - Academic matura
    - Vocational or specialised Baccalaureate 
  •  Tertiary level 
    - Advanced vocational training with federal PET diploma, higher vocational examination with federal diploma or Master certificate,
    - College of higher vocational education and training (e.g. higher technical school TS), higher economic school (e.g. HGK) (full-time 2 years  or 3 years part-time)
    - College of higher vocational education and training HWV, HFG, HFS, engineering school HTL, (3 years full-time or 4 years part-time)
    - University of applied science (UAS), university of teacher education (UTE)
    - University, Federal Institute of Technology 


Swiss/foreign national  
Information on nationality is taken from the population registers.   

  • Swiss: The category “Swiss national” includes people with Swiss citizenship as well as naturalised persons. 
  • Foreign national: The category “Foreign national” covers all foreign nationalities including that of persons that have recently migrated to Switzerland as well as non-naturalised second and third generation foreign nationals. Caution should therefore be used when interpreting the designation “foreign national”.


Employed vs. not employed  
Switzerland’s permanent resident population is considered. 

  • Employed: An employed person is someone who in the reference week worked for pay for at least one hour, who despite a temporary absence from their place of work still had a job or who worked without pay in a family business.
  • Not employed: All economically inactive persons and unemployed persons based on the ILO definition (International Labour Organization). Unemployed persons based on the ILO definition are all persons who were not employed in the reference week, were actively looking for work and would be available to take up employment. Economically inactive persons are persons defined as being neither employed nor unemployed according to the ILO definition (e.g. housewives, house husbands, pensioners, etc.).

The detailed definitions can be found in the FSO’s document (03 - Employment and Income, Neuchâtel, 2018). Prior to 2012 data was collected on people in full-time and part-time employment, who count as employed, and on unemployed people.

Document updated on 12.3.2024