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Are you being underpaid in Switzerland? Here’s how to find out

This tool shows you how much you should be earning in a wide variety of industries in Switzerland.

Are you being underpaid in Switzerland? Here’s how to find out
A waiter serves coffee. Are you being paid too little in Switzerland? Photo: John MACDOUGALL / AFP

Swiss salaries are known to be among the most competitive in the world. 

This however does not prevent people from being underpaid. 

Swiss salaries: How much do people earn in Switzerland?

wage calculator created by the Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (SGB) allows employees to check within seconds whether their salaries are high enough.

The SGB programmed the calculator with the latest salary levels from 72 different industry sectors and 36,000 companies.

Ultimately, the tool takes into account the wages of more than two million employees. 

In June 2021, the SGB updated the calculator with new information and improved its usability. 

The underlying data comes from Switzerland’s Federal Statistical Office. 

By inputting information such as the number of years spent working in a given position, the online calculator computes customary local wages for the job in question.

READ MORE: REVEALED: What are the best and worst paid jobs in Switzerland?

The calculator is available at the following link in French, German and Italian. 

In addition to knowing how your actually salary compares to the average, the tool is also useful in wage negotiations with your employer. 

How does the tool work?

At present, an English version of the wage calculator has not been developed. 

That said, it is relatively simple to use even if your French, German or English is in need of improvement. 

Firstly, enter your job title. Then enter the type of work you practice, i.e. your specification. 

Then you will be asked to enter a range of specific factors about yourself, including your age, your education and experience, where you live and how much you work per week. 

The tool will then provide a range in which your salary should sit. 

As can be seen in the following image, this will be relatively broad so as to include bonuses or the possibility of being paid a ’13th’ or ’14th salary’. 

You are also shown where you sit compared to other workers in similar industries, i.e. how many earn more or less than you. 

There are also a relatively comprehensive set of FAQs which explain how wages work in Switzerland, how to calculate your wage (i.e. hourly, daily, weekly or monthly) and various other questions. 

It also lays out steps you can follow if your wage is less than 25 percent below the average, including contacting a union to push your case

Tool provides minimum wage info 

The tool also provides indications as to the minimum wage in different industry sectors. 

As The Local Switzerland has reported recently, Switzerland does not have a minimum wage at a federal level, although some cantons have put in place a minimum. 

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

Editor note: A version of this story was first published on The Local Switzerland on June 17th, 2021. 

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EMPLOYMENT

Property, traffic and jobs: What a doubling of cross-border workers means for Switzerland

Over the next decade, the number of employees from France who commute to their jobs in Switzerland is predicted to increase two-fold.

Property, traffic and jobs: What a doubling of cross-border workers means for Switzerland

Currently, about 190,000 French citizens —aptly called ‘frontaliers’, which in French means ‘border people’ — commute to their jobs in Switzerland.

Data from the Federal Statistical Office (OFS) shows that the highest number — 90,000 people — are employed in Geneva. The rest work in other cantons that share a border with France: Vaud, Jura, and Neuchâtel.

However, according to the European Cross-Border Grouping (GTE) and Crédit Agricole de Savoie bank, the number of these workers “will double within ten years”, said Olivier Balima, the bank’s deputy general manager. This projection is based on demographic and economic studies, he added.

This means that by the year 2032, nearly 400,000 people from the neighbouring regions of France will be employed in Switzerland.

The reason for the increase, the two groups say, is Switzerland’s aging population, as well as continuing shortage of skilled labour in some sectors; both factors “could increase the need to call on staff from the other side of the border”

In the healthcare sector alone, an estimated at 70,000 workers will likely be needed, according to  Gabriella Taricone, head of the GTE’s employment service. In fact, at Geneva’s university hospital (HUG), 3,200 caregivers out of around 5,200 in total — 60 percent — come from France.

Many are also employed in the service industry, retail, and hotel and restaurant sector.

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Who can work in Switzerland but live in a neighbouring country?

Historic trend

The forecast for the increase in frontaliers in next decade is not in itself a new phenomenon.

Numbers have been rising since the beginning of the 2000s, when the Free Movement of Persons Agreement signed between Switzerland and the European Union went into effect.

The treaty lifted restrictions on EU / EFTA citizens wishing to live or work in Switzerland — either permanently (permit B or C) or as cross-border commuters (permit G).

As this OFS chart shows, the number of frontaliers has risen dramatically in the past 20 years.

What impact will the increase in cross-border workers have?

Based on what we know now, the effect will likely have a three-fold effect.

Property prices

As The Local reported on June 3rd, the Léman Express, a train linking the Geneva region with neighbouring French towns to provide a quicker commute for cross-border workers, has caused property  and rents on both sides of the border to rise sharply.

In the vicinity of the train’s 45 stations, real estate prices soared by 8 to 9 percent on average — a sharper increase than elsewhere in the region.  

Prices went up in the French departments of Haute-Savoie and Ain, as well as in Swiss cantons of Geneva and Vaud, all of which lie along Léman Express’ 230-km track.

READ MORE : How a cross-border train has pushed house prices up in Switzerland and France

Based on these facts, it is within a realm of possibility (and even probability) that the same trend will continue as more workers from France become employed in Switzerland.

Traffic jams

Frontaliers already create bottlenecks at and near border crossings during peak times, and the situation will likely worsen with even more people coming and going to and from France.

While in terms of traffic Geneva is by far the worst in Switzerland, other border areas are impacted as well.

For instance, in canton Jura, which lies on the Swiss side of Doubs department in the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region in eastern France, cross-border commuters are creating congestion at several border crossings.

‘Brain drain’

This expression means the departure of trained or qualified people from a particular country — in this case, France.

While Switzerland benefits economically from the presence of cross-border workers, France — not so much.

This poses a problem for French companies located near the border, as they can’t find any personnel.

There have been many instances of French officials and employers complaining about their local workforce leaving in droves to work for a higher pay across the border.

One example is officials in the Haute-Savoie accusing private Swiss health clinics of ‘poaching’ essential healthcare workers during the Covid pandemic.

In another case, Jean Benoît-Guyot, who runs a plumbing business in the French commune of Saint-Julien-en-Genevois, which is located right on the border with the canton of Geneva, can’t find any employees to hire as “everyone wants to work in Switzerland”.

This disparity in Swiss and French wages was also made clear by another French citizen, Kévin Lecoq, who makes a daily cross-border trek to the Swiss canton of Jura..

“If we add up everything that has to be paid in taxes, we still have one and a half times the French salary”, he told The Local.

This article explains how this “exodus” affects French regions, and is likely continue to have a negative impact as numbers of cross-border workers continue to grow.

READ MORE: Why French cross-border workers choose to work in Switzerland

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