Where is Switzerland's highest minimum wage?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Where is Switzerland's highest minimum wage?
Minimum wage, which is especially needed in low-paid sectors such as cleaning, is going up in Germany. Image by Simon Kadula from Pixabay

Unlike most European countries, Switzerland doesn’t have a national minimum wage. But five cantons have gone against this trend.


Even though its salaries are among the highest in the world, Switzerland is one of only five nations in Europe — the others being Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, and Norway — that has never introduced minimum wages nationally.

In 2014, Switzerland held a referendum on whether to set the minimum pay at 22 francs per hour, but the move was rejected by 76 percent of voters.

They heeded the government’s warnings that implementing a set wage would be detrimental to Switzerland’s prosperous economy, as it would raise production costs and jeopardise jobs by putting smaller companies— which cant’s afford to raise their workers’ wages — out of business.

However, the defeat of the minimum salary on the national level has not prevented individual cantons from introducing their own rules.

To date, several have done so.

At 24.32 francs, Geneva has the highest minimum hourly salary. (Exceptions are employees in the agriculture and floriculture sectors, who have their own minimum pay of 17.87 francs / hour).

Next is Basel-City, (21.45 francs an hour), while Neuchâtel and Jura set it at 20 francs, and Ticino at 19.75 francs.

These salaries, negotiated by unions on behalf of workers, reflect the cost of living in each of these regions, which explains why some wages are higher than others.

In 2023, Zurich residents also voted to introduce a minimum hourly wage of 23.90 per hour.

It was was supposed to come into effect from 2024, but now it will take longer for this measure to be implemented — if it will be at all — because this move is being challenged by employers' associations. 

Not everyone, however, is subject to minimum wages: most employers already pay more than the minimum mandated by law in those cantons.


Why aren’t more cantons / cities introducing minimum wages as well?

Aside from the widespread belief (as mentioned above) that a set wage harms the economy, the country already has strong labour laws which protect workers in terms of wages, work conditions, and other employment-related rights.

Additionally, the Swiss believe that fair and equitable pay is already guaranteed by collective bargaining agreements (CLA), contracts that are negotiated between Switzerland’s trade unions and employers.

They cover a minimum wage for each type of work, in addition to regulations relating to work hours; pensions; payment of wages in the event of illness or maternity; vacation and days off; and protection against dismissal.

CLAs are sector-specific; in other words, they take into account the particular aspects of each branch. As an example, Switzerland’s largest labour union, The Swiss Federation of Trade Unions (UNIA), maintains 265 collective agreements in the areas of industry and construction.

READ ALSO: What is a Swiss collective bargaining agreement — and how could it benefit you?


In fact, there is a push among some legislators to scrap cantonal minimum wages altogether in favour of CLAs.

If the Federal Council confirms the scope of application of the CLAs — in other words, that they do indeed supersede cantonal rules — minimum wage laws would no longer be valid.

To date, however, the Federal Council has not acted on this.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Why Switzerland could scrap the minimum wage?


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also