Why are Swiss wages so high?

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why are Swiss wages so high?
Swiss employees have more money than European counterparts. Photo: Pixabay

Employees in Switzerland have higher net salaries than their counterparts elsewhere in Europe. But why exactly do they earn more?


Switzerland’s has been experiencing higher immigration rates recently. The main reason for this upward trend is a high labour market demand, coupled with wages that are considerably higher than these employees would be able to earn in their own countries. 

International statistics show that in 2023, an average monthly salary in Switzerland is 6,990 USD (6,321 francs), ahead of Luxembourg in the second place and Denmark in the third. 


What is even more important is that the net disposable income is also highest in Switzerland, because the country’s tax rate is lower than elsewhere as well.

In fact, other data indicates that employees in eight Swiss cities (Zug, Zurich, Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, and Lucerne) have more disposable income than workers living in other European cities. 

READ ALSO: Where in Switzerland do people have most money to spend?

Another comparison
Unlike many other countries, Switzerland has no national minimum wage.

However, a few cantons do have legislation setting the minimum pay on their territories. While it ranges from 20.6 francs per hour in Jura to 24 francs per hour in Geneva, the average minimum wage is in Neuchâtel - 22.61 francs.

Moneyland consumer platform compared this average to minimum wages in other countries and found that Swiss are is the highest. 

(Note than the vast majority of employees in Switzerland earn more than the minimum imposed by law in several cantons).


So why are wages higher in Switzerland?
There is no one, simple answer to this question.

Instead, a variety of factors play a role in determining how much an employer is willing to pay.

Let’s look at some of them.

Strong economy

Switzerland’s economy is the strongest, most stable in Europe, and most innovative globally as well.  

Generally speaking, when the economy is strong and thriving, employers can afford to pay higher wages to incentivise the workforce to keep up the productivity and profitability level of companies.

High demand for skilled workers

Switzerland has been in the throes of the worsening labour shortage, which has now reached "its highest level,” according to a report by the University of St. Gallen.

Employers eager to fill vacant positions will offer workers high salaries, along with other perks as well. 

This extends also to cross-border commuters, whose wages in Switzerland are double or even triple those they’d earn in their own countries.

READ ALSO: Why cross-border workers from Germany love their Swiss jobs


Do these salaries compensate for the high cost of living?

The answer to this question depends, logically, on how high your wages are versus your fixed costs (rent / mortgage, health insurance premiums, food, transport, clothing, taxes, etc.), and also your overall spending habits on “non-essentials” such as entertainment, restaurants, travel, and leisure activities in general.

That, of course, applies to all countries, not just Switzerland.

One way to look at the salaries versus the cost of living is through the purchasing power parity (PPP) — the financial ability of a person or a household to buy products and services with their wages. 

An in-depth analysis by a digital employment platform Glassdoor provides some interesting and no doubt surprising insights into Switzerland’s PPP in comparison with other nations.

"Taking not only income and cost of living into account, but also the effects of differences in taxation, it is possible to derive an indication of after-tax, local purchasing-power-based, standard of living”, the study reported.

“On this basis, the highest overall standard of living is found in the cities of Switzerland, Denmark, and Germany. Although the cost of living can be relatively high in these countries, so are average wages and purchasing power”.

Also, despite higher overall prices, households in Switzerland are putting aside more money at the end of each month than their European counterparts, a study from HelloSafe consumer platform indicates.

Swiss households are saving nearly 22 percent of their income, while the European Union recorded an average savings rate of 10.3 percent - that is, 11.6 points below the average Swiss rate

So the salaries (at least the ones on the higher end) do seem to go further in Switzerland.

READ ALSO: How do the Swiss manage to save more money than other Europeans?


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