Disposable income: Where in Switzerland do people have most money to spend?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Disposable income: Where in Switzerland do people have most money to spend?
Photo by Claudio Schwarz on Unsplash

Wages in Switzerland are among the highest in Europe and the world, but this income is not evenly distributed among the regions, a government study shows.


The median monthly Swiss salary in 2022 was about 6,700 francs, which means that 50 percent of the population earns more and the other 50 percent less.

Also, a median wage doesn’t really indicate how much of it goes toward fixed costs like taxes, social insurance, rent (or mortgage), health insurance, and utilities. By the same token, it doesn’t show how much of the initial income is disposable, that is, left to spend after all the charges are paid.

The Federal Council looked at these variables and released a report showing not only the differences in how far net wages go in each canton, but also how much disposable money households have, based on their earnings.

What emerges from this report, published in December, is that there are significant differences among cantons. The analysis is based on 2018 figures, but the income distribution situation is the same today.


Here is what the government found:

At the time the study was carried out, national average net (disposable) income was 51,449 francs per household per year.

However, more than half of the cantons are below this threshold, and half above.

People living in the canton of Zug enjoy the highest average disposable income in Switzerland, at 80,102 francs per household.

READ MORE: Why does the canton of Zug have Switzerland's lowest taxes? 

Next, in the upper half, are Schwyz (73, 412 francs), Nidwalden (62,612), Zurich (59,692), Basel-City and Basel-Country (57,573 and 55,763, respectively), Geneva (53,884), Obwalden (52,597), Aargau (53,334), and Appenzell-Innerhoden (52,445).

At 51.469 francs, Vaud is just 20 francs above the national average in terms of disposable income.

All the other cantons fall below the national average, with Valais having the lowest disposable household income — 37, 574 francs.

The difference between the highest disposable income — in Zug — and the lowest — Valais — varies greatly.
As the Federal Council noted in the report, “overall, the municipalities of the Alpine and pre-Alpine regions and the Jura massif have the most modest incomes, with the exception of a few tourist centres.”

On the other hand, "the highest levels are found around the Zug-Schwyz-Nidwalden triangle, in Zurich, Aargau, Basel and on the shores of Lake Geneva."


Where the wealthy are

The Federal Council also examined which regions attract the highest number of rich people.

It has set the wealth threshold at 106,000 francs per year (in 2018), which corresponds to a disposable income greater than or equal to twice the median income.

Here, again, Zug is at the top — nearly one in three residents are considered wealthy, according to the above criteria. In Valais, on the other hand, less than one person is rich.

The same pattern is seen here as in the disposable income category above: “The municipalities on the shores of Lake Geneva, Lake Zurich and Lake Zug are particularly popular with wealthy taxpayers,” the report said. “The Alpine municipalities or the Jura massif, on the other hand, attract fewer high-income taxpayers.”

What has the study concluded?

It found that Uri, Aargau and Glarus are the most "equal" cantons in terms of income.

Zug, Geneva and Schwyz, however, are least so.

READ MORE: How much do you need to earn in your Swiss canton to be well off?


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