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COST OF LIVING

Geneva voters approve ‘world’s highest’ minimum wage

Geneva voters on Sunday came out in support of introducing a minimum wage, guaranteeing every worker in one of the world's priciest cities at least 23 francs ($25) an hour.

Geneva voters approve 'world's highest' minimum wage
Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Switzerland as a whole has no minimum wage, and voters in 2014 turned down a chance to adopt one at a national level.

Geneva voters themselves have twice previously rejected calls to introduce a minimum wage in the city.

But on Sunday the winds appeared to have changed as the coronavirus pandemic has deepened the wealth gap, with 58 percent of voters in the canton coming out in favour of the unions-backed initiative.

The result made Geneva the third of Switzerland's 26 cantons to set a minimum hourly earnings rate after Jura and Neuchatel.

READ: Swiss voters refuse immigration cuts, embrace paternity leave

The initiative, which had the support of all the left-leaning parties, had been presented as a remedy to poverty and precariousness, which have become increasingly visible in wealthy Geneva since the coronavirus crisis began.

Long lines of people waiting for handouts of food and other necessities have become a common sight in the city.

The unions behind the initiative argued that it was impossible in Geneva to live in dignity making less than 23 Swiss francs ($25, 21 euros) an hour, or 4,086 francs a month for a full-time 41-hour work week.

 

READ: Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland 

Rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment is at least 3,000 francs, and a coffee costs four or five francs. Geneva's minimum wage vote was just one of many national, regional and local issues on the ballot Sunday as part of Switzerland's famous direct democratic system.

At a national level, voters appeared poised to make history on another social issue by approving paternity leave for the first time in the country long renowned for its traditional approach to family models and gender roles.

That referendum to grant new fathers two weeks paid leave looked set to pass with nearly 57 percent of the vote at the national level, according to partial results, while full results in Geneva showed the canton backing the measure by over 79 percent.

Highest in the world

This is well above the current highest minimum wage in the world, which is Australia’s $19.84 per hour (CHF13.15). 

Over a 40-hour work week, this adds up to 4,100 francs per month. The average wage in Switzerland is currently CHF6,500. 

A cantonal vote on implementing a minimum wage was knocked back by 54 percent of the electorate in 2011, while a similar vote at the federal level was rejected by 66 percent of the electorate in 2014. 

According to Swiss news outlet Le Temps, the coronavirus pandemic may play a key role in changing the outcome of the vote. 

Two Swiss cantons – Neuchâtel and Jura – have put in place minimums, while Ticino has recently approved a minimum via a referendum, but hasn't yet put it into law.

Basel will also go to the polls on a minimum wage of 23 francs, however a date for the vote has not been set. 

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COST OF LIVING

Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

Sure, there are many adverts on the internet that claim to offer cheaper this and that, but more often than not, clicking on the link could cost you even more money (and time). However, there are also credible sites in Switzerland that will actually help you spend less.

Six no-gimmick websites that help you save money in Switzerland

When you live in an expensive country like Switzerland, getting more bang for your buck (or franc) may seem like an impossible feat.

Some residents of border areas save money by shopping for groceries in France, Italy, or Germany, where most products are much cheaper.

But not everyone in Switzerland has access to these stores and some people may actually prefer to support their own economy, even if it costs more.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about the cost of living in Switzerland

These six sites will not help you save money on everything, but they will help you in that direction.

Comparis.ch is an independent comparison platform that provides well-researched and impartial information on best deals in a variety of areas.

They include lowest prices for insurance (health, life, travel, car, and others); properties (including loans and mortgages); vehicles; and mobile phone and internet plans.

You can also find price comparison for various electronics; toys; beauty and wellness services; car and motorcycle accessories, and other products and services.

Moneyland.ch is another, though similar, cost comparison website, where lowest prices for banking, insurance and telecom services can be found.

Like Comparis, Moneyland will often produce reports ranking certain products and services, such as healthcare and insurance plans, which can give you a valuable insight on how to save in Switzerland. 

We can’t tell you which of the two resources is better; visit both and see which one fits your needs. Both have a English-language pages, as well as producing reports in Switzerland’s national languages. 

Cost of living: How to save on groceries in Switzerland

Toppreise.ch

This comprehensive portal also lists prices for hundreds of products in a wide range of categories, including electronics; household items, and appliances; clothing and jewellery; and even wine.

You can get good deals on wine if you look around. Image by Holger Detje from Pixabay

Bonus.ch

This site compares prices of items ranging from foods to body care products at Coop, Migros, and Lidl.

The prices may not always be up to date (and may change as the war in Ukraine and inflation progress), but the site will nevertheless give you a good idea of which products are cheapest where.

READ MORE: 13 things that are actually ‘cheaper’ in Switzerland

Consumer sites

While these websites aim primarily at protecting and defending consumer rights, they also have some useful information on how to save money on various purchases.

For instance, the Swiss-German chapter, Stiftung für Konsumentenschutz has advice on how to save on customs taxes when purchasing goods online in foreign countries.

In the French speaking cantons, Féderation  Romande des Consommateurs has information on where in the region you can pick your own strawberries and save money while doing so, and in Ticino, Associazione consumatrici e consumatori della Svizzera italiana has similar information.

If you visit these consumer sites regularly, you will find helpful advice on how and where to spend less on certain products and services at that particular time.

Find out where picking your own strawberries will save you money. Photo: Anna Tarazevich / Pexels

And then there is this…
 
If you want to know how much the price of communal services such as water and waste management is in your commune and how it compares with other Swiss municipalities, you can check it out on this official government website.
 
It doesn’t tell you per se how to save money on these services but it is a useful resource nevertheless.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why is Switzerland so expensive?

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