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'Show us your wages': Swiss campaign aims to smash income taboo

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'Show us your wages': Swiss campaign aims to smash income taboo
A screen grab from the Zeigdeinenlohn (Show your income) website.
10:49 CEST+02:00
If you want an almost sure-fire way to kill off a conversation with a new Swiss acquaintance, ask them how much they earn.

In fact, people can work side by side for years in the same company without ever knowing what their colleagues earn.

But a new website aims to smash this taboo in order to improve wage transparency in Switzerland.

Read also: Ten unwritten rules for fitting in with the Swiss

Live since August 23rd, the Zeigdeinenlohn (Show your income) website gives people the chance to reveal their income publicly. Around 350 people have done so already, uploading photos of themselves and giving details of their job and their salary.

On the site, for example, you'll find Michelle Wildli, who earns 3,800 francs a month as a cosmetician, Francesco, who takes home 9,500 francs every month as a digital marketing lead and Adrian, a painter with a monthly income of 4,350 a month.

“The idea is to lay everything bare and create a new culture in terms of talking about wages,” Isabelle Lüthi, with the union Unia told Swiss news portal 20 Minuten.

By doing so, those behind the campaign – a group which includes unions, left-wing political parties and women's rights organizations – hope to fight wage discrimination.

The campaign's organisers argue this lack of conversation about wages benefits employers. 

Women, foreign workers and part-time workers are among the worst-affected, according to Lüthi.

Read also: 14 fascinating facts about the history of women's rights in Switzerland

But an open conversation about wages would help people establish if their pay is fair or appropriate, according to the campaign organisers.

They also argue this transparency puts pressure on employers to justify how much they are paying people, while it has the added benefit of creating happier workers, given they had nothing to hide on the wage front.

The campaign will culminate in a protest in Bern on September 22nd with participants set to call on Swiss politicians to boost efforts to bring down the wage gap between men and women and to do more on the thorny issue of parental leave.

But not everyone is onboard.

The Swiss employer's federation said the transparency push is unnecessary with organization spokesperson Fredy Greuter arguing the current gender-neutral income system with its various wage levels is effective.

The federation has also said in the past that imposing transparency on firms from above “does not fit with the Swiss model”.

“Here [in Switzerland] individual firms decide if they want to reveal their wages based on their own business culture,” Daniella Lützelschwab with the employer's federation told 20 Minuten in 2016.

Read also: This is how much people earn in Switzerland

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