Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland

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
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.

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. 

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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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