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Will Zurich introduce a minimum wage?

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Will Zurich introduce a minimum wage?
Should Zurich introduce a minimum wage? Photo: FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP

Following the lead of Basel City, appetite is growing in Switzerland’s most populous canton for a minimum wage. What are the chances of it being introduced?


On Sunday, June 13th, the citizens of Basel City voted in favour of introducing a minimum wage set at 21 francs an hour.

It is the first German-speaking canton to approve this measure in the entire country. 

READ MORE: Which Swiss cantons have a minimum wage?

Three Swiss-French cantons, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Geneva, and the Italian-speaking Ticino, have already done so. 

Early research indicates the move has been positive, with few job cuts alongside defined improvements in people’s ability to meet the high Swiss cost of living. 


What is happening in Zurich?

As a result, union advocates in Zurich are now pushing to introduce a minimum in the country’s most populous canton. 

A collection of trade unions, left-wing political parties and aid organisations have launched the ‘A Wage to Live’ initiative (Ein Lohn zum Leben). 

The initiative has been submitted in the city of Zurich along with the municipalities of Winterthur and Kloten. 

The goal of the campaign is to set a minimum wage of 23 francs per hour. This would be just under the minimum wage in Geneva of 23.14 francs, which is technically the highest minimum wage in the world. 

While other cantons have a minimum wage, this would effectively mean the minimum was set at a council rather than a cantonal level - which would be a national first. 

When asked why the measure wasn’t being pushed for across the entire canton, organiser Björn Resener told Switzerland’s Watson news organisation "The canton of Zurich is too bourgeois, we would risk defeat."

"Most of the low-wage jobs are in the cities of Winterthur, Zurich and at the airport." 

"The cost of living in Zurich has been proven to be higher."

The efforts are already receiving some resistance however, with a spokesperson for the Zurich employers association, Hans Strittmatter, saying it may hit low skilled workers hard. 

“There is a risk that people with low qualifications will drop out of the labor market. For example, institutions that employ people with disabilities cannot afford the minimum wage,” the spokesperson said. 

Strittmatter said more time was needed to determine if the impacts of the minimum wage in other cantons were truly positive. 

How does minimum wage work in Switzerland?

When compared to its European neighbours - or countries globally - Switzerland is known for its high salaries. Therefore, it is perhaps surprising to find out that the country does not have an officially mandated minimum hourly wage. 

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. 

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. 

More information about the minimum wage in Switzerland can be found at the following link.

Minimum wage in Switzerland: What you need to know


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