For members


Which Swiss companies have the biggest gaps between high and low earners?

While Swiss wages are more equitable than those of most other European countries, there is still a significant disparity between the lowest and highest salaries in the country’s big companies, according to a new survey.

Which Swiss companies have the biggest gaps between high and low earners?
Top-level executives earn more than lower-hierarchy employees. Photo by Marten Bjork on Unsplash

Wage inequality can either come about when income is unevenly distributed throughout a population, or, on a smaller scale within a given company.

Although Switzerland generally boasts strong pro-worker labour laws and salaries that are among the highest in the world, new research indicates that wage disparity is alive and well in many large Swiss companies.

The study, carried out by Unia labour union, shows that in 2021, executives of 43 largest Swiss firms earned an average of 141 times more than their lowest-paid employees.

The worst offender in terms of income disparity is Roche, where top executives earn 307 times more than their lowest-paid workers. The pharmaceutical giant is followed by UBS (221), Logitech (204), Nestlé (201), Alcon (197), and Novartis (195).

What is the study authors’ definition of a ‘low’ wage in this context?

In half of the 43 companies surveyed, Unia found that the lowest incomes are less than 50,712 francs per year.

“These salaries are significantly lower than the ‘low salary threshold’, which, for Switzerland, corresponds to 53,320 francs”, the study reads. 

While salaries of the lowest paid employees grew by only 0.5 percent between 2016 and 2020 (the last year for which official data is available), for the higher-ups the increase was 4 percent.

READ MORE: Swiss salaries: How much do people earn in Switzerland?

How does Switzerland compare to other countries in terms of income disparity?

Data published by the Federal Statistical Office (FSO) indicates that when it comes to salaries, Switzerland matches the EU’s median ratio of 4.9 — which means that the total income of the richest 20 percent of the population is 4.9 times greater than the total income of the poorest 20 percent.

This is the same ratio as in Germany.

By comparison, the ratio in Switzerland’s neighbour, Italy, is much higher — 5.8 percent — France’s is 4.5 percent, and Austria’s 4.1.

Generally speaking, and income inequality notwithstanding, “the standard of living in Switzerland remains one of the highest in Europe”, the FSO said.

This means that after adjustment for differences in price levels between countries, “the Swiss population’s financial situation is more comfortable than that of its neighbouring countries and countries in the European Union”.

This is the case even though the cost of living in Switzerland is higher than in most European countries, according to FSO.
READ MORE: EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland’s cost of living isn’t as high as you think

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


Teachers to tech: What wages you can expect to earn in Switzerland

Switzerland is known for the high salaries paid to employees in most industries. Here's a closer look at what you can expect to earn.

Teachers to tech: What wages you can expect to earn in Switzerland

Switzerland’s high wages have been a magnet for foreign workers for many years, including for some 300,000 cross-border commuters whose Swiss jobs typically pay more than double of what they would earn for the same positions in their own countries.

This is an overview of how much people earn in certain sectors in Switzerland and how these wages compare with those paid in other nations.

Let’s begin with teachers.

As the school year has just started in most cantons, Watson news portal has released the most recent wages paid to Swiss teachers at various levels.

This data was culled from teachers’ organisations throughout the country.

These are some of the findings:

The median annual salary for kindergarten teachers ranges from 74,737 Swiss francs for new teachers, to 112,976 francs for more seasoned ones.

At the primary-school level, the lowest rate is 78, 435 francs and the highest 117 936 francs. In secondary schools, wages range from 90,787 francs  to 136,966 francs.

The highest pay scale (103,250 francs) is at the higher-professional level.

Regionally, Zurich pays highest salaries to teachers at all levels of the educational system, with Geneva in the second place at most levels. This follows the general trend of salaries across all sectors, where wages are the highest in densely-populated, industrialised areas.

On the other hand, teachers earn the least in eastern Switzerland and Ticino, depending on levels.

You can find more detailed per-canton information, including how teacher salaries have increased over the years here.

READ MORE: What do teachers earn in Switzerland – and where do they earn the most?

How to these wages compare to those earned by teachers across Europe?

The difficulties with different statistics is that they are measured using variable criteria, so the results will vary from one source to another.

In a global survey by the EU statistics site, Statista, Switzerland ranks in the third place for teachers income, below Luxembourg and Germany, but ahead of another high-income country, Norway.

However, only wages at upper-secondary schools were taken into account in this survey, rather than overall salaries.

Salaries in other sectors

A good overview of how much people in Switzerland earn in various industries comes from a report from released in March 2022 by the Federal Statistics Office and reported by The Local.

With an average monthly gross income of 6,555 francs, Switzerland has the highest average salary in Europe.

Around one in ten Swiss residents are considered ‘low wage earners’, which means they take home less than two thirds of the median wage each month (4,443 francs). 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, average salaries in the finance industry — 10,211 francs —per month are the highest of any sector. They are followed by workers in the pharmaceutical sector (10,040 francs), followed by 9,200 francs for those in IT. 

At the lower end of the spectrum, workers in hospitality earn 4,479 francs per month and those in the retail sector make 4,997 francs per month. 

The lowest wage category in Switzerland is the ‘personal services sector’, which includes hairdressers, beauticians and undertakers. Workers in that category earn 4,211 francs per month before tax. 

Jobs in the middle of the pack with averages reflecting the national median include the healthcare sector (6,821 francs) and manufacturing (7,141 francs). 

READ MORE: What is the average salary for (almost) every job in Switzerland

International comparison

How does the average monthly gross income of 6,555 francs compare to other nations?

Looking at neighbouring countries only, the median monthly salary in Germany is 4,100 euros (3,931 francs at the current exchange rate); 2,340 euros (2,245.50 francs) in France; 2,333 euros in Italy (2,238 francs); and 2,182 euros in Austria (2,238 francs).

These wages are much lower than in Switzerland, but so is the cost of living in those countries

On the other hand, average wages are higher than Switzerland’s neighbours in Norway (44.150 kroner per month — 5,694 francs — 44,514  kroner in Denmark (5,694 francs), 46,000 kroner in Sweden (4,154 francs), and 4,910 euros (4,710 francs) in Luxembourg.

READ MORE : Do wages in Switzerland make up for the high cost of living?