What is the minimum wage in Switzerland for an expat? Find out how wage regulations work in Switzerland and get the lowdown on some of the best paid jobs.
Expats searching for a job in Switzerland may be unnerved to learn that there is currently no national Swiss minimum wage in force across the country, despite efforts from the government to introduce one in 2014.
This means that salaries in Switzerland are left to the open market, except in some industries where collective bargaining agreements result in specific worker rights and minimum wages.
Swiss minimum wage rules
Back in 2014, Swiss voters rejected a proposal to introduce what would have been the highest minimum wage in the world at CHF 22 per hour. Just over three quarters of voters were against the legislation.
While some campaigners were concerned about rising costs for employers (especially in industries such as catering), many argued that a minimum wage in Switzerland would have little effect as the overwhelming majority of Swiss employees already earned a Swiss salary well in excess of the proposed minimum wage.
Despite a minimum wage being rejected in the national vote, the cantons of Jura and Neuchatel voted separately to bring in minimum wage levels of CHF 20 per hour.
Decisions over salaries in Switzerland are generally left to employers, but some industries are governed by collective labour agreements (CLA or GAV, Gesamtarbeitsvertrag). According to OECD data from 2017, Switzerland had the second highest average wage in Europe after Luxembourg (CHF 62,350).
Collective labor agreements exist at national, regional, cantonal and company levels; you can enquire with your employer or each relevant authority to find out if a CLA exists. In addition to a minimum Swiss wage, collective bargaining agreements can also regulate everything from employment termination periods to holiday allowance.
One of the most well known agreements is the Collective Labor Agreement for the Hotel and Restaurant Industry (L-GAV), which is binding for all employers and employees in the sector in Switzerland.
Average salary in Switzerland
The average salary in Switzerland is among the highest in the world, but so too is the cost of living – and how much you’ll earn can vary from area to area.
Data from the Conference of Education Directors for German-speaking Switzerland published in October 2018 showed that primary school teachers in Geneva (CHF 97,000) earned significantly more than those in Nidwalden (CHF 85,000) and Ticino (CHF 66,000).
As in other countries, gross salary in Switzerland is subject to a range of deductions, such as Swiss social security (covering old age, unemployment insurance and pension schemes, etc.) and a range of taxes.
If you’d like to find the expected average wage in your industry, you can check the salary calculator (in French and German) operated by the Swiss Trade Union Federation. In addition to Swiss minimum wages, you can also find out about the key attributes needed for different types of jobs, and how common different levels of qualifications are in each sector.
For certain common jobs in Switzerland, Lohncomputer offers the following annual wage estimates from salary surveys:
- Doctor/Vet: CHF 110,000–130,000
- IT: CHF 115,000–120,000
- Lawyer: CHF 111,600
- Engineer: CHF 108,500
- Marketing Officer: CHF 90,500
- Civil Servant: CHF 85,800
- Journalist/Editor: CHF 85,200
- Draftsman/Architect: CHF 75,000
- Translator: CHF 73,200
- Teacher: CHF 87,500
- Police Officer: CHF 82,200
- Postal Worker: CHF 66,600
Zurich’s Office for Economy and Labor also publishes an annual report outlining salaries in Zurich for almost every profession; the Lohnbuch 2019 (in German) includes data on typical salaries based on age and experience.
Besides relatively high average salaries in Switzerland, worker rights are also better than in some other European countries. The Swiss government sets limits on the amount of hours employees are allowed to work – 45 for office staff and retail workers, and 50 for other salaried workers. Overtime must be paid at 125% of the normal wage.
Holiday allowances, meanwhile, are similar to countries such as the United Kingdom. Employees over the age of 20 are allowed four weeks holiday per year by law (workers under the age of 20 are allowed five weeks), and many employers increase this amount for long-term workers. In addition, each canton is allowed to set up to a maximum of Swiss public holidays.
Salaries in Switzerland are usually reviewed on a yearly basis, with pay increases taking effect from 1 January the following year. Swiss salaries are usually paid monthly for the equivalent of 13 months per year.
Swiss salaries for foreigners
Foreign employees working in Switzerland have the right to be paid at a rate equivalent to the Swiss salary in their chosen profession. This rule is prescribed in the Swiss Federal Act on Assignments (Entsendegesetz). You can use this salary calculator to estimate your average salary in Switzerland.
The government performs random checks salaries in Switzerland of foreign workers to ensure they are up to par with Swiss nationals, and has the power to fine any company who fails to conform to this regulation.
In addition to fines, employers guilty of breaking rules may also have to back-pay any workers affected. As there is no set salary for most professions in Switzerland, estimates are done on a case-by-case basis, based upon a range of factors such as job grade, qualifications, and working hours.