World’s Highest Minimum Wage: How Did Switzerland Vote?

A $25 minimum wage in Switzerland?

Voters in Switzerland had a chance to raise the country’s minimum hourly pay rate to the highest level in the world.

The proposal lost in a landslide today, however.

Switzerland allows its citizens to vote on proposed changes to national law provided the advocates collect at least 100,000 petition signatures. The minimum wage measure was sponsored by the country’s trade unions along with the Socialist and Green political parties.

Raising the minimum wage to the equivalent of about $25 in US dollars lost by about 76 percent; in other words, three out of four votes rejected the minimum wage hike. “[O]pinion polls had indicated that most voters sided with the council and business leaders, who argued it would cost jobs and erode economic competitiveness, driving Switzerland’s high costs even higher.”

Switzerland has no minimum wage law, but apparently many firms in the country are voluntarily boosting hourly take-home pay to some degree. Swiss workers are generally well paid, although the country has a high cost of living.

“If the initiative had been accepted, without doubt that would have led to job cuts, particularly in remote and structurally weaker regions,” said the country’s economy minister.

Opponents of the $25 minimum wage also claimed it would undermine the countries apprenticeship programs. Youth unemployment is about 3 percent in Switzerland. Lawmakers urged voters to vote no because “it didn’t take into account regional and sector differences that might merit different pay. They also said the minimum wage would make it more difficult for low and unskilled job seekers to find work.”

In November, voters in Switzerland rejected a ballot referendum that would have put a cap on the pay of corporate fat-cats, although they previously approved a referendum that reined in golden parachutes for top executives. “Swiss voters have a history of voting against proposals they feel could hurt the country’s economic success story or threaten competitiveness.”

In February, Swiss voters approved a measure limiting immigration from European Union countries.

In today’s balloting, voters also rejected a plan to add 22 new fighter jets to the country’s air force, imposed a permanent ban on convicted pedophiles working with children, and approved a plan to increase family doctors in rural areas.

Do you think that the world’s highest minimum wage, if approved, would have been a plus or minus for Switzerland’s economy?

[image credit: Roland zh]