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Is a Swiss minimum wage on the way?

Is a Swiss minimum wage on the way?

Campaigners across Switzerland are attempting to draw attention to issues relating to low salaries, in an effort to promote the introduction of a national minimum wage in the country.

No national minimum wage in Switzerland

Despite Switzerland being well-known for its high salaries and incredible quality of life, the country does not have a national statutory minimum wage, meaning that people are routinely paid less than 20 Swiss francs per hour and struggle to make ends meat.

As part of an investigation, the Swiss newspaper 20 minuten used the example of a person who wished to remain anonymous, who, as an employee of a private security company in Zurich earned only 19,24 Swiss francs per hour, and had no real opportunity to renegotiate their low salary with a new contract.

It is not illegal for businesses to pay their employees so little in Switzerland, and while there are some minimum wage laws in different cantons and cities, there is no nationwide legislation to ensure that workers are paid enough. For certain industries, there are limits on how little employers can pay, which are set out in collective bargaining agreements (GAV). Otherwise, wages are subject to conditions relating to the local area, the specific employment industry and working conditions.

Swiss unions lobbying to introduce a minimum wage

Some cantons that have added minimum wage laws like Geneva, Ticino and Basel Stadt have highly varying thresholds. While the minimum wage in Geneva is 23,14 Swiss francs per hour, in the canton of Ticino, workers need only be paid 19 Swiss francs for the same hour’s work.

Switzerland’s largest employee union, Unia, has expressed its intent to push for a national minimum wage, to protect employees across the country from low pay. When asked about the progress made by certain cantons towards providing fair wages for all, a spokesperson representing Unia said, "This is a start, but Unia is committed to ensuring that low wages are no longer paid in all of Switzerland."

HR expert Ursula Bergundthal feels the same way. Bergundthal believes that wages lower than 20 Swiss francs per hour should be illegal, and explained, “In Switzerland, the cost of living is extremely high. With such a low wage you can hardly cover the running costs and there is a high risk of getting into debt at some point."

Emily Proctor

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Emily Proctor

Emily studied International Relations and Chinese, and is now undertaking Master's degree in International Security. She enjoys writing, cooking, and playing piano.

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