Why it's becoming more difficult to get a summer job in Geneva

Helena Bachmann
Helena Bachmann - [email protected]
Why it's becoming more difficult to get a summer job in Geneva
Geneva students may be facing unemployment during summer vacation. Photo: Pixabay

Many students like to earn money during their summer holidays. But those seeking employment in Switzerland’s second-largest city Geneva are in for disappointment.


During summer months, when school is out, many university students get work selling ice cream, renting out pedalos at the lake, or performing other seasonal jobs that don’t require specialised skills.

This is a common sight throughout Switzerland, but it is becoming rarer in Geneva.

The reason is the canton’s minimum wage, which went into effect in January 2020, after 58 percent of Geneva’s voters accepted the proposal as a sign of solidarity with the area’s poorer residents.

At that time the hourly pay was 23 francs, rising to 24.32 francs in 2024, based on the canton’s annual consumer price index. 

On a monthly basis, this amount to 4,400 francs for a full-time job.

(There is no national minimum wage requirement, but four other cantons —Basel-City, Neuchâtel, Jura, and Ticino — have such laws as well; Geneva’s is, however, the highest).

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about minimum wage in Switzerland

So what is the problem in Geneva?

As a result of the statuary minimum wage, which is compulsory for employees over the age of 18, “the number of summer jobs has dropped significantly,” according to Geneva’s Liberal-Radical Party (PLR).

That’s because companies can’t afford to pay such high wages to unqualified employees who have no particular skills.

This has prompted a number of Geneva students to seek summer employment in nearby Vaud, where no minimum wage rules are in place.

To remedy this situation, which impacts employers and summer job seekers alike, the PLR has submitted a motion in Geneva’s parliament on April 2nd, asking that an exemption from the minimum wage rule be granted for summer jobs that do not exceed 60 days. 

It will be debated and voted on during upcoming sessions.

Labour unions, however, are not in favour of PLR’s move.

“Just because it’s summer and students doesn’t mean that wage dumping suddenly becomes acceptable,” said Davide De Filippo from the SIT union.


Minimum pay versus CLA

While five cantons enacted minimum pay laws, this issue remains highly controversial in Switzerland.

Many economists and MPs believe that collective labour agreements (CLA) are sufficient to guarantee salaries, along with other workers’ rights and protections.

Generally speaking, CLAs — contracts negotiated between trade unions and employers or employer organisations — cover a minimum wage for each type of sector and job, along with other workforce-related matters like work hours, annual leave, pension fund regulations, early retirement, conflict resolution procedures, and funding of training.

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

Because they are quite comprehensive, a number of MPs have argues that CLAs should prevail over  cantonal minimum wage legislation.

The Federal Council has yet to decide whether these agreements should supersede cantonal rules — that is, invalidate minimum wage laws in the five cantons.

If that does happen, Geneva’s students will no longer have any hurdles to summer employment.

READ ALSO: Why Switzerland could scrap the minimum wage? 


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