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COST OF LIVING

Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland

Minimum wage in Switzerland is complex and not regulated at a federal level, although several cantons have taken the lead by putting in a minimum standard. Here's what you need to know.

Minimum wage is particularly important in the service industry.
A waiter wearing a protective face mask poses in the nearly empty restaurant in Geneva. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

On June 13th, the Swiss canton of Basel became the latest to put in place a minimum wage, doing so via a referendum. 

This followed the referendum decision from September 27th, 2020, when voters in Geneva approved what is set to become the highest minimum wage anywhere in the world. 

When implemented, workers will be paid a minimum of 23 francs ($US25) per hour in the western canton. 

READ: Geneva voters approve ‘world’s highest’ minimum wage

It makes Basel the fifth Swiss canton to have approved a minimum wage and the only German-speaking canton to do so. 

Two Swiss cantons – Neuchâtel and Jura – have put in place minimums, while Ticino has recently approved a minimum via a referendum. 

As of November 2021, each of the five cantons has implemented its minimum wage, other than Basel which is expected to do so in early 2022. 

The remaining cantons have not followed suit, while there is no minimum at the federal level.
 
More information about the level of the minimums is available at the following link. 
 
 
In 2014, Switzerland held a referendum on whether to set the minimum wage at CHF22, but the move was rejected. 

Why no nationwide minimum wage in Switzerland? 

After being first implemented in New Zealand and Australia in the 1890s, minimum wage laws have spread across the world. Most European countries have now put in place some form of minimum wage limit. 

When compared to its European neighbours – or countries globally – Switzerland is known for its high salaries in almost all industry types.

Therefore, it is perhaps surprising to find out that the country does not have an officially mandated minimum hourly wage. 

REVEALED: The best and worst jobs in Switzerland

That does not however mean that your employer is free to pay you as much – or as little – as he or she wants.

Instead, the minimum amount you can be paid will be determined through negotiations with your employer which will may feature a trade union representative. 

Minimum wage in Switzerland

To expats arriving from other countries – particularly English-speaking ones – the idea of not having a federally-set minimum wage is sometimes hard to grasp. 

Whether this be an hourly amount or one which is set for full or part-time hours, setting a minimum standard in specific industries is a common way to ensure workers aren’t underpaid or unpaid. 

READ: The cost of parenting in Switzerland – and how to save money

In Switzerland, minimum standards are not set by law, but by collective or individual bargaining with your employer. 

Generally, collective agreements will be negotiated by trade union representatives and will apply to an entire industry or in an entire canton, meaning that you yourself do not need to negotiate. 

Construction workers in Lausanne. Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

There are however some jobs or industries – usually for jobs with higher incomes or which are less common – where negotiations will take place on an individual basis. 

These agreements will not just cover a minimum payment amount, but they will also set benefits, holiday pay and working conditions. 

The government has published a list of collective agreements based on different industries and cantons to give you an idea of how much you will be paid. This can be found here

Minimum wage in Europe

In total, 22 of the 28 European Union countries have an officially prescribed minimum wage. 

The EU countries without a legally mandated minimum wage include Italy, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Denmark, while non-EU countries like Switzerland and Norway also don’t have federally set minimums

Minimum wage in Europe in 2018 (in $US) Image: Wikicommons

While this lack of a statutory mark might be unusual, in these countries – as with Switzerland – there are various other collective agreements and influences which will prevent employers from undercharging workers. 

Indeed, the ‘nominal’ minimum wages in these states – the figure which is generally seen as the minimum wage without being legally mandated – is higher than those in some countries where a specific mark is 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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