A clear majority of Swiss voters have in a referendum decided against drastically limiting immigration to the country.

According to final results, 74.1 percent of those participating in Sunday's referendum voted "no" on limiting net immigration to fewer than 17,000 people a year.

The measure was one of three issues voters had to decide on, including bids to scrap special tax breaks for rich foreigners living but not working in Switzerland, and on forcing the central bank to increase its gold reserves, all of which were rejected.

Those in favour of limiting immigration had argued that a curb would ease pressure on the country's economy and environment. Those opposed said the curb would be bad for economy.

Highest percentage

Just under one quarter of Switzerland's eight million people were born abroad which, together with Australia, is the highest percentage in the world.

In order to gain access to the EU single market, Switzerland signed the bilateral Free Movement of Persons Agreement, opening its borders to EU migration.

While some local businesses complain that they would not be able to maintain their workforce if immigration was capped, Ecopop, the initiative behind the proposal, claim the cap is necessary to protect the ecology and quality of life in the country.

According to Ecopop, immigration is adding 1.1-1.4 percent annually to the Swiss population, putting the country on track to house up to 12 million people by 2050.

Source: Agencies