This cozy country is known for its high cost of living and higher salaries. But how much do you know about the minimum wage in Switzerland?
If you’re trying to find a job or secure a work visa in Switzerland, you probably want to know how much you can expect to earn. After all, this alpine nation in the heart of Europe is known for good salaries to off-set its higher cost of living. However, before you start shopping too eagerly, it’s important to understand the lay of the land when it comes to all things pay-related in Switzerland.
From average salaries to the minimum wages, it’s always a good idea to do your research ahead of time to avoid getting caught out. With that in mind, here’s our guide to everything you need to know about the minimum wage in Switzerland and much more, including:
- Swiss minimum wage
- Average salary in Switzerland
- Gender pay gap
- Salaries and wages for expats
- What to do if your salary is too low
- Useful resources
Minimum wage in Switzerland
You might be surprised to learn that there is no nationwide minimum wage in Switzerland. In 2014, Swiss voters rejected a measure to introduce what would have been the highest minimum wage in the world – CHF 22 per hour or CHF 4,000 a month. Just over 75% of voters were against the legislation and it remains a hot topic in the country to this day.
Employers generally set wages for Swiss workers and the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) has consistently found that Switzerland has one of the highest annual wages in the world at around CHF 6,500 per month. However, the alliance of supporters for a national standard says many workers are earning much less. For example, 17,000 full-time workers in the city of Zurich earned around CHF 4,000 a month before deductions in 2020. The alliance, which includes many Swiss trade unions and employers associations, says the worst-paid professions include sales and courier services. It also disproportionately impacts women in the workforce, accounting for around two-thirds of those affected.
Minimum wage variations in Switzerland
Despite the lack of nationwide support, several of the 26 Swiss cantons have passed their own minimum wage requirements. Voters in Geneva approved the world’s highest minimum wage in 2020. The hourly rate of CHF 23 provides a monthly salary of CHF 4,000. However, Geneva is considered one of the most expensive places to live in Switzerland. The new wage requirement takes precedence over provisions in individual contracts or collective agreements that provide for a lower wage. Apprenticeships, internships, employment contracts with persons under 18 years of age, and the agricultural sector are exempt. The amendment also provides that the wage adjusts annually, based on the cost of living.
The cities of Winterthur, Zurich, and Kloten are also now working to introduce a local minimum wage of CHF 23. Meanwhile, a minimum wage of CHF 19.75 to CHF 20.25 is being gradually introduced in the canton of Ticino from January 2021. The cantons of Neuchâtel and Jura set a minimum wage of CHF 20 in 2017.
Other variations to the Swiss minimum wage are the result of various labor law agreements at national, regional, cantonal, industry sector, and company levels. For example, domestic workers in Switzerland are paid a minimum wage ranging from CHF 19.20 to CHF 23.20, depending on applicable skills and certifications. The bargaining agreements (Collective Labor Agreement (CLA) or Gesamtarbeitsvertrag (GAV)) 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). This is binding for all employers and employees in the sector.
Minimum wage calculator in Switzerland
If you’re looking for a job you might want to check what you can potentially earn. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) provides an online national wage calculator to give an idea of typical salary ranges in Switzerland for various sectors. It then tells you a likely wage based on your individual profile (age, years of experience, training and education, position in the company, profession, etc.).
What to do if you’re not being paid the minimum wage in Switzerland
The rules and penalties for labor disputes vary across the Swiss cantons. For instance, in Geneva, employers who do not pay the minimum CHF 23 per hour wage face administrative fines of CHF 30,000. They may face stiffer penalties for repeated or very severe violations. If you’re not being paid the minimum wage in Geneva you can report the offense to the Direction générale de l’office cantonal de l’inspection et des relations du travail (French), also known as OCIRT. For more information on employment-related issues, visit the Ch.ch website.
Alternatively, workers who are owed a minimum wage salary in Switzerland based on a collective bargaining agreement should contact their trade union or employers association. In a collective labor dispute involving several employees, cantonal conciliation boards handle the case. Federal employees should contact the responsible administrative office with a labor complaint.
Overall, there isn’t a clear path to reporting unpaid wages in Switzerland. Labor disputes are also complicated by the fact that Switzerland does not have any legal protections for whistleblowers.
Average salary in Switzerland
Despite not having a national minimum wage, workers in Switzerland are among the highest-paid in the world. In 2019, OECD reported that the average annual salary in Switzerland was CHF 60,847. The average wage has remained relatively steady over the past decade. However, salary is not the only thing to consider when getting a job in Switzerland. There are many other workplace benefits you should factor in.
All employees in Switzerland are entitled to at least four weeks of holiday per year. Workers aged 20 and younger are entitled to five weeks. Other absences from work (e.g., accident, illness, or bereavement) are up to employers’ discretion. Many employers take out insurance to pay their employees 80% of their wages during prolonged absences. Employers pay for at least half of the amount of the premiums. All employed mothers (full and part-time) receive 14 weeks of paid maternity leave. As of 1 January 2021, employed fathers can also receive paternity leave.
Average salary in Switzerland by sector
Here’s a simplified look at what you can expect to earn in various economic sectors in Switzerland. This data was compiled by the Swiss Federal Statistical Office (FSO) in 2018.
|Job sector||Avg gross monthly wage (CHF)|
|Accommodation and food service||4,413|
|Administrative and support service||5,238|
|Arts, entertainment and recreation||6,655|
|Financial and insurance activities||9,402|
|Human health and social work||6,178|
|Information and communication||8,705|
|Professional, scientific and technical||7,843|
Average salary in Switzerland by job function
Additionally, the table below shows some estimated average salaries for different jobs in Switzerland. These gross salary estimates from Lohncomputer are based on full-time contracts. However, remember that these average salaries will vary depending on your location. Typically, you’ll earn more in larger cities like Zurich and Basel than you would in more rural areas.
|Occupation||Annual salary (CHF)||Monthly salary (CHF)|
|IT systems specialist||117,000||9,750|
Salary checker in Switzerland
There are several ways to compare your salary in Switzerland. The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) has an online national wage calculator that provides a drilled-down view of typical salary ranges based on your sector, age, experience, and education level. You can also compare your salary on sites such as Jobs.ch or Glassdoor.
Gender pay gap in Switzerland
Switzerland is behind many other European countries when it comes to women’s rights and gender equality. Swiss women famously didn’t get the vote at the federal level until 1971. Although, policy changes are slowly making progress on this issue. Switzerland was 18th on the 2020 Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum – up two spots from 2018.
The gender pay gap is particularly wide in Switzerland compared to other western European countries. In Italy, women earn 5% less than men. Meanwhile, in Switzerland, women’s paychecks are 19% lower than men’s. This means women are being paid approximately CHF 1,512 less per month. A report by the Federal Office for Gender Equality reveals that 45.5% of this gap cannot be explained by factors such as professional status, years of service, or qualifications. Therefore, the government has concluded that CHF 642 of the wage difference is discriminatory. In Switzerland’s private sector, the average gender pay gap is 19.6%. Women in the public sector earn 18.1% less than men. The largest wage gap between men and women is found in eastern Switzerland (11.5%), while the smallest divide is in the Zurich region (7.6%).
Until recently, Switzerland did not have any legal measures in place to confront the gender pay gap. However, on 1 July 2020, a new rule under the Swiss Federal Act on Gender Equality (GEA) came into force. Now, companies employing 100 or more employees (full or part-time) must conduct a so-called internal analysis on wage equality. If the analysis reveals an unexplained wage difference exceeding the threshold of 5%, the analysis has to be repeated after four years. However, this new legislation will expire automatically by 1 July 2032.
Salaries and wages for expats in Switzerland
Switzerland has experienced an immigration boom over the past 20 years. Of the 8.4 million people living in Switzerland in 2018, nearly 2.1 million were foreigners. More than two-thirds were from EU and EFTA countries. Foreign nationals also account for 32.4% of the workforce. A government report shows the increase in the number of foreign workers between 2014 and 2019 was more than five times higher than the increase in the number of Swiss workers.
However, that doesn’t mean finding a job as a foreigner is easy even if you’ve secured a Swiss work visa or permit. The National Center of Competence in Research found that citizens with foreign backgrounds must submit 30% more applications than native Swiss candidates in order to be invited to a job interview. Furthermore, the rate of unemployment for foreign nationals is two to three times higher than for Swiss nationals.
According to a study commissioned by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), foreign male workers entering the local job market between 2003 and 2013 earned 6.4% less than their Swiss counterparts. But, after five years in the workforce, foreign workers make 1.9% more than Swiss nationals. The study revealed a different situation for foreign women. They already earn more than Swiss women in their first year on the local job market. This is likely because women from other countries often arrive in Switzerland with more professional experience than Swiss women.
If you are searching for a well-paid job in Switzerland, you might want to look to the main drivers of the Swiss economy – the financial and pharmaceutical industries. The country also has one of the highest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the world.
What to do if your salary is too low in Switzerland
If you feel that you are being discriminated against at work based on your gender, race, or disability, you can take legal action against your employer in a Swiss court.
The Swiss Gender Equality Act requires companies found guilty of gender-based pay discrimination to repay the wage difference. If you think you are being paid unfairly because of your gender, the Federal Office for Gender Equality (FOGE) advises you to first try to find a resolution with your employer before taking the matter to court. Your company might even have a designated person to oversee gender equality in the workplace.
If an agreement cannot be reached, you should contact an equal opportunities office, advice center, staff association, or your trade union. Each canton has a conciliation authority concerned with gender equality at work. Legal proceedings on the canton level are free of charge. However, you will have to pay lawyer’s fees. You can not be terminated from your employment as retaliation for your discrimination claim during this process or six months after conciliation or court proceedings.