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Swiss women take to the streets to demand equal rights

Thousands of women took part in protests across Switzerland on Monday demanding greater equality between the sexes.

Over 40 different protests took place in Swiss towns and cities, including Geneva, Basel, Zurich, Lucerne, Lausanne, Fribourg and Neuchâtel. Purple was again the official colour of these female-led protests with calls for fair wages for women, protection against harassment and violence and a fight against the raising of the retirement age to 65 for women.

Fifty years after the introduction of the vote for Swiss women, forty years after the principle of equality was enshrined in the Constitution, thirty years after the first women’s strike and two years after the huge 2019 women’s strike, “the demands are still valid”, the protesters said in a statement published on Monday.

More recently, the Covid-19 pandemic has again showed that women’s work is not properly recognised or rewarded, they added.

Gender gap

Last week, the Trade Union Federation criticised the perceived lack of progress on equal pay, pensions and labour conditions between men and women in Switzerland.

A large wage gap persists between the sexes. Official statistics show that in 2016 (latest available data), the standardised median gross monthly wage in Switzerland was CHF6,011 ($6,051) for women and CHF6,830 for men, a difference of 12%. In the private sector, the difference was even greater. There, women earned 14.6% less than their male colleagues.

But according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), gender equality is improving in Switzerland. In March of this year it said Switzerland had jumped eight places to number ten in the latest edition of WEF’s Global Gender Gap report, which measures comparative opportunities offered to men and women in society.