World’s Highest Minimum Wage Rejected in Switzerland

Written by | Monday, May 19th, 2014

Swiss voters on Sunday overwhelmingly rejected an initiative that would have introduced the highest minimum wage of 22 Swiss Francs (about US$ 25) an hour in the world. The Minimum Wage Initiative, which had been proposed by the Swiss Trades Union Confederation and backed by the Socialist and Green parties, was rejected by about 76% of voters in the European wealthy nation. While supporters of the initiative argued that the move was necessary for people to live a decent life, its critics opposed this view by saying that it would raise production costs and increase unemployment. The outright rejection of the proposed minimum wage – which corresponds to a monthly salary of 4,000 Swiss Francs for a full-time job – was welcomed by business leaders worried that the measure would have hurt competitiveness and damaged the Swiss workplace. As the Swiss Economy Minister Johann Schneider-Ammann pointed out, “If the initiative had been accepted, without doubt that would have led to job cuts, particularly in remote and structurally weaker regions.”
The Minimum Wage Initiative came amidst efforts in many countries around the world to increase pay for lower-income workers. The Swiss vote was the latest initiative seeking to address a widening income gap in this overall egalitarian society. However, had the initiative been accepted, it would have set Swiss wages at more than double the $10.10 an hour that US President Barack Obama has proposed for American workers and a minimum wage of €8.50 ($11.64) an hour that German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing for. Voters in Switzerland have historically dismissed similar initiatives and plans that they felt were threats to the country’s economic success. Two exceptions were, first, the vote earlier in February when – despite ample warnings from business – they unexpectedly agreed to curb immigration from the European Union and also when they backed the proposal last year to give shareholders a say over executive pay.

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